Ed Davey, the Lib Dem Energy Minister gave a speech today saying that the EU should make it more expensive for firms that produce carbon dioxide.
Currently businesses buy and trade permits to produce carbon under the EU’s emission trading scheme. But the number of permits that were written is too high. This means that there isn’t a big incentive for large, polluting companies such as the energy producers to become more efficient and reduce their dependence on carbon. Ed Davey is proposing to cancel a number of “excess” permits which will have the effect of raising the cost of carbon so that these firms will be forced to become less dependent on carbon fuel.
Ed also proposed increasing to 30% the EU carbon reduction target for 2020 which currently stands at 20%.
For my masters I studied Mathematics in the Living Environment, a cross over between maths and environmental studies and we built and analysed a lot of models. One of the projects involved working on models for the Centre for Terrestrial Carbon Dynamics. The aim of this group is to quantify the Earth’s carbon balance and remove uncertainties in the current models. This was a few years ago now, but it was clear from the work we were doing that there is a massive feedback in carbon flows. This means that if the amount of carbon in the atmosphere increases it leads to a further increase in the amount of carbon that is released into the atmosphere.
Some models stated that we are not far off a time when the amount of carbon in the atmosphere will lead to ever increasing amounts of carbon being released. More needs to be done now to ensure that human activity regulates the amount of greenhouse gasses.
For this reason I fully support Ed Davey’s calls for the EU to increase its targets to a 30% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020 and to make it more expensive for firms to produce carbon. However, rather than politicians making nice round numbers we need a full scientific analysis. By 2020 what is the target reduction in carbon emissions that would lead to a sustainable level of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere?