EU – Environment

This section is not complete yet – but getting closer…

This is part of the EU Fact File

Verdict: OUT – Sorry I thought this area should be a “IN” for the EU but wherever I have looked so far the result is negative. For instance if we had stuck to the US EPA car emissions we would have been a cleaner country. Regulations like ETS, subsidies and rules in the EU does not seem to be promoting renewable energy as opposed to countries outside the EU. In reality it seems investment in renewables is governed by GDP growth – we only introduce renewable if the economy can afford it. This is proven by the investment by Germany – the only country in the EU having growth. Also the EU does not enforce a EU wide level playing field proven by several cases of regional taxes – like the UK CPF tax.


Renewable energy is a large and complex area but to gauge the impact of being inside or outside the EU we need to look at world figures7.

World CO2 Emissions by Region:


Note that EU-28 is not doing better than the US in terms of reducing CO2 emissions. Expanding economies like China and Asia are increasing fast.

Notice the dip around 2008-09 is due to the recession and not really due to improved deployment of renewables.

However looking at investment into some renewables8:




China along being the biggest polluter also seems to be the biggest investor in renewables. EU would look sad is it wasn’t for Germany.

Notice Spain PV additions in 2014 was ZERO due to the Spanish “solar tax” – see below.

It does seem being in the EU does not increase investment in renewables more than any other growing economy.

The biggest investors in renewables seems to be the countries with the biggest growth – especially China.

So to afford expensive investment in renewables we need to grow first as a economy and then trade renewables technology with the biggest investors = China and US.

Germany has been doing well as one of the few countries in the EU having a growth (until 2015).


Due to policies like ETS the UK is planning to replace CO2 generating power plants (coal, gas and oil) with nuclear power.

Strangely enough the EU does not have a nuclear environment policy13:

European nuclear policy is governed by the Euratom Treaty. Therefore, regular EU policy, on for example environment or the market does not apply to issues in the nuclear field. The nuclear policy is mainly in the competence of the member states. In the EU level, DG ENER is the main authority for EU nuclear issues.

This results in some countries like Germany are decommissioning nuclear power plants due to safety concerns, whilst other countries are planning to build new ones. This does not make sense as in case of a disaster; the fallout is rarely local…


Mitigating climate change is one of the top priorities of EU environmental policy. In 2007, member states agreed that, in future, 20% of the energy used across the EU must be renewable, and carbon dioxide emissions have to be lower in 2020 by at least 20% compared to 1990 levels (3).

In 2009 the Renewables Directive set binding targets for all EU Member States, such that the EU will reach a 20% share of energy from renewable sources by 2020 and a 10% share of renewable energy specifically in the transport sector. By 2014 the EU realized a 16% share of energy from renewable sources with nine member states already achieving its goals.

UK was 5.2% in 2013 as measured in accordance with the methodology set out in the Directive.

Part of the directive includes the ETS as described in detail in a separate paragraph below.

The programme lists nine priority objectives and what the EU needs to do to achieve them by 2020(4):

  1. to protect, conserve and enhance the Union’s natural capital
  2. to turn the Union into a resource-efficient, green, and competitive low-carbon economy
  3. to safeguard the Union’s citizens from environment-related pressures and risks to health and wellbeing
  4. to maximise the benefits of the Union’s environment legislation by improving implementation
  5. to increase knowledge about the environment and widen the evidence base for policy
  6. to secure investment for environment and climate policy and account for the environmental costs of any societal activities
  7. to better integrate environmental concerns into other policy areas and ensure coherence when creating new policy
  8. to make the Union’s cities more sustainable
  9. to help the Union address international environmental and climate challenges more effectively


The EU has over several years introduced standards to reduce emissions in cars9.

However the EU seems to have been lenient towards diesel6:

Mistakenly, Europe has allowed diesel vehicles to emit vastly more of the harmful pollutants than petrol vehicles in the same category in its pursuit for somewhat illusory CO2 emission reductions from diesel

Where US is much more strict6:

On balance the USA tend to be ahead of Europe in terms of setting emission limits

Without going into all the numbers it seems US is doing better than the EU in controlling emissions.

Nitrogen oxide emissions:

  • US EPA Tier 2: 0.043 grams per kilometre
  • Euro 6 (2015 models): 0.18 grams per kilometre

So ideally we should stick to US standards rather than the lax EU standards. However UK would not be able to do this as this would be anti-compeditive and favour US made cars.

This ties in with the diesel scandal, which was discovered in the US10 where it was known about in the EU in 2011:

European Commission’s Joint Research Centre published a report which found that all tested diesel vehicles emit 0.93 ± 0.39 g/km and that the tested Euro 5 diesel vehicles emit 0.62 ± 0.19 g/km. This substantially exceeds the respective Euro 3-5 emission limit.[43] In 2013

UK Carbon Floor Price (CPF)

A top-up tax introduced by the LibCon coalition11:

The CPF is a top-up tax: it exists to bolster the existing EU price of carbon. Energy companies already pay to pollute under the EU emissions trading scheme (ETS), buying permits to emit greenhouse gases when they generate electricity.

In reality what happened is the price of ETS is much lower than the CPF essentially making UK coal powered power plants uncompetitive compared to similar plant in rest of Europe – hence resulting in their closure. This “tax” also artificially puts up the power bills in the UK.

This will artificially create a power crisis and we will end-up having to introduce gas fired power plants instead short to mid-term and long term to use nuclear power. Both building these power plants will require massive investment and both types of power generation is not without its problems.

Greenpeace spokesperson Doug Parr says7

“[The CPF is] putting up people’s energy bills for no environmental gain – giving ‘green taxes’ a bad name without achieving anything”.

Similar to the solar tax below EU seems to ignore that energy should be a level playing field and rules should be the same across the EU as some of the power (and plants) may be foreign7:

A higher carbon price in the UK means fewer emissions in this country, which means more ‘carbon permits’ available on the European power market. This basically means that instead of coming from the UK, the emissions would come from the rest of Europe

Spanish Solar Tax

Yes, in Spain they have started to tax solar installations!

This is actually a case of why it does not pay to subsidise energy production above market prices5.

Spain currently has a debt to solar power production of EUR 26 Billion!

The solar energy produced is too expensive and has resulted in overpriced-overcapacity that cannot be resold in the EU or anywhere really.

So in order to recoup the money they have introduced a new tax4.

The tax, however, will make it economically unfeasible for residents to produce their own energy: it will be cheaper to keep buying energy from current providers. And that is exactly the point.

This is completely inefficient and in reality damages the EU as a whole as Spain ought to be the solar power source of the EU.

Also the EU should ensure a level playing field prohibiting individual countries to actually impose additional costs on businesses whether they are domestic or foreign.

UK Pollution Case

20/02/2014: Commission takes action against UK for persistent air pollution problems (5):

The Commission has launched legal proceedings against the UK for its failure to cut excessive levels of nitrogen dioxide, a toxic gas. Nitrogen dioxide is the main pre-cursor for ground-level ozone causing major respiratory problems and leading to premature death. City-dwellers are particularly exposed, as most nitrogen dioxide originates in traffic fumes. European legislation sets limits on air pollution and the NOx limits should have been achieved by 1 January 2010 unless an extension was granted until 1 January 2015

This is in line with policy #8.

Photovoltaic Case

This is a strange case where solar panels were too cheap from China. Instead of subsidise the EU based panels to match the Chinese prices we all end up loosing and having to pay a higher price to save the planet.

From the EU1 and 2:

On 5 December 2013 the European Union imposed anti-dumping and antisubsidy duties on imports of solar cells and solar panels from China. These duties were imposed following investigations that showed that solar cells and solar panels were being imported into the EU at dumped prices and were being subsidised. These imports were causing injury to the European producers of solar cells and solar panels. The duties were therefore imposed to increase the price of these imports to a level where European manufacturers could compete on price.

Emission Trading Scheme (ETS)12

A greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme in the world, and remains the biggest. It was launched in 2005 to fight Global warming and is a major pillar of EU climate policy.

According to the EU Commission this has worked well but that’s what they are supposed to say. However12:

According to UBS Investment Research, the EU ETS cost $287 billion through to 2011 and had an “almost zero impact” on the volume of overall emissions in the European Union and the money could have resulted in more than a 40% reduction in emissions if it had been used in a targeted way, e.g., to upgrade power plants

Questions to be asked:

  1. Is the EU in environment cases becoming a super tanker unable to turn and adapt to technology and market changes without the agreement from 28 countries?
  2. What about indirect pollution and contamination from nuclear power?
    Apparently European nuclear policy is governed by the Euratom Treaty. Therefore, regular EU policy, on for example environment or the market does not apply to issues in the nuclear field. Very odd but maybe explained by France (EDF) is a big supplier in this market?
  3. Environment agreement should be global like the Kyoto agreement. If we in the EU apply regulations and taxes, polluting industries will just move to countries where cost of pollution is less. Does that not tie in with what is happening in our iron and steel industry where it’s closing in the UK but blossoming in China?
  4. The photovoltaic case to a degree proves the reality of the environmental EU policies – first save the business and save the planet later?
  5. Why do the EU interfere in if our cities are sustainable or not (point 8 above)? EU should ideally concentrate on cross-border issues to everybody’s benefit?
  6. The US state of California has very strict car emission rules without being a member of the EU. Why can’t UK do the same?
  7. The emissions scandal “smells” like the EU commission is in the pocket of the European auto industry?

Good Articles (subscripted)


References (superscripted)

  11. CPF –
  12. ETS –
  13. Nuclear –

Change log:

  1. 9/3: Created section 
  2. 10/3: Created separate page
  3. 13/3: Added emissions

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