Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Environmental Priorities

The Environmental Economics blog comments on The Economist's Buttonwood column on Europe's adaptation of emissions trading markets. More media attention to emissions trading is a good thing, except both make the mistake of calling Europe's carbon trading markets pollution trading. CO2 is not a pollutant, it is a natural component of our atmosphere and it is the least potent greenhouse gas, though it is the biggest emission by amount.

The United States is the leader in reducing pollution emissions. We have reduced emissions of the six principal air pollutants (NO2, O3, SO2, CO, Pb, and particulate matter, PM) by 54% since 1970. We started emissions trading markets in 1995 for SO2 and have expanded trading to other pollutants. The Bush administration has proposed large diesel emissions reductions. Most of all, the Bush administration has put together the "Methane to Markets" program with 15 countries including all the major developing countries including India, China, and Brazil. Methane is 20 to 30 times as potent a greenhouse gas as CO2. The estimates are that this will remove 1% of all greenhouse gases emitted by humans by 2015 while providing needed energy to increase growth.

The United States leads the world in reducing emissions of everything but CO2. So now Europe insists on focusing on Kyoto CO2 emissions and nothing else. The Bush administration is definitely losing this PR war. I think we need to go on offense and call on the rest of the world to improve their air pollution standards and create world emissions markets for SO2 and other pollutants.


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