December 12th sees the end of the World Climate Conference in Paris and the struggle for a successor to the Kyoto Agreement on the limitation of global warming. In the last days of the negotiations a "coalition of the ambitious " was formed. The European Union together with the USA, numerous developing countries and island states committed themselves to ambitious climate targets. Oil-exporting countries like Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Russia remained sceptical and the giant threshold nations China and India also distanced themselves from the new grouping.
But no effective climate policy can be successful without the up-and-coming states of Asia. The ten most egregious climate sinners now include six Asian countries. An interactive chart by the Cologne Institute for Economic Research shows the emissions of individual countries, the source of these emissions and how they have developed. While Europe has lowered its CO2 output from fossil fuels by about 700 million tons since 1990, Asia has increased its own by 10,000 million tons. A balance for the years 1990 - 2013 shows a net increase in worldwide emissions by some 50 per cent to 32,000 million tons per annum.
This development could be countered if the emissions trading which has proved so effective in Europe were to be expanded to include at least the worst offenders. China has actually announced its intention to introduce the system in 2017. Emissions trading offers incentives for reducing greenhouse gases, prevents distortion of competition by a uniform price and makes it possible to achieve a fixed emissions target at the lowest possible cost. How successful the instrument is depends on the politically determined upper limit for emissions and thus on the ambition of the government.