Pop quiz: Which OECD country has reduced its carbon emissions the most since 2006?
Most people will probably expect that it is a European country, perhaps Germany. The answer instead is the United States of America.
So, despite constant claims by American environmentalists that America should look to Europe to see how to reduce emissions, America is actually currently having more success in reducing emissions.
Is this trend likely to last? Let’s consider this year. Carbon emissions have not been reported yet for the US, however based on energy use it looks as if US emissions may be declining by 2-3% this year. What is happening in Europe? As I wrote before Europe is currently seeing a shift from gas to coal, and emissions may rise this year. This week’s Economist has a very good figure showing the dreadful state of the EU carbon price and the increase of coal consumption in the last 4 years.
Compare this increase in coal use with what is happening in the US:
Europe has also seen an irrational decision to move away from nuclear power plants while coal is still on the grid. In Germany this effectively means they have lost a decade in their attempts to decarbonise electricity.
Consider also that this year the US has decommissioned 8 GW of coal plants, and has not started the construction of any new ones. Couple the ongoing switch from coal to gas with new fuel efficiency standards on cars, and the potential of strong EPA regulations on power plant emissions, and it appears clear America is now likely to see ongoing emissions cuts in the next decade.
In the light of this it is perhaps worth reconsidering the common belief that the Obama administration is doing little about climate change, while Europe, and in particular Germany, is leading the way.