Unintended Consequences

Climate Change Policy in a Globalizing World

Author: Yda Schreuder
Volume 3, Number 1 (2012)

Drax power station in North Yorkshire, England, was the largest single emitter of carbon dioxide in the United Kingdom until 2016 (photograph by Les Haines, via Flickr, CC BY 2.0).


The cap-and-trade system introduced by the European Union (EU) in order to comply with carbon emissions reduction targets under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Kyoto Protocol (1997) has in some instances led to the opposite outcome of the one intended. In fact, the ambitious energy and climate change policy adopted by the EU—known as the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS)—has led to carbon leakage and in some instances to relocation or a shift in production of energy-intensive manufacturing to parts of the world where carbon reduction commitments are not in effect. EU business organizations state that corporate strategies are now directed toward expanding production overseas and reducing manufacturing capacity in the Union due to its carbon constraints. As the EU has been “going-it-alone” with mixed success in terms of complying with the Kyoto Protocol’s binding emissions reduction targets, the net outcome of the ETS market-based climate change policy is more rather than less global CO2 emissions.

YDA SCHREUDER is Professor of Geography and Senior Policy Fellow in the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy at the University of Delaware. She is the author of The Corporate Greenhouse: Climate Change Policy in a Globalizing World (2009). She has also written several articles on the topic—published in Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society and Energy and Environment—and has researched the implications of the UNFCCC climate change regime and the EU Emissions Trading Scheme on global shift s in production of energy intensive industries. An earlier version of this article was presented at the Nature Inc. Conference in The Hague, the Netherlands, in 2011.

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