NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


March 30, 2009

When making the case for cap-and-trade in Washington state, advocates of that complex system often look to Europe and in particular the United Kingdom for solace and as a hopeful example of potential success.  Recently, two members of Parliament spoke before the legislature about the United Kingdom's experience with cap-and-trade.  The final claim they made in their presentation is, unfortunately, emblematic of the misuse of statistics that is required to claim success for the Kyoto Protocol and cap-and-trade, says Todd Myers, director of the Center for the Environment, Washington Policy Center.

They claimed that since 1990, emissions in the United Kingdom had fallen by 16 percent and that the United Kingdom's economy had grown by 45 percent since then.  The statistics imply two things:

  • Cap-and-trade can successfully reduce CO2 emissions.
  • Strict reductions in CO2 emissions can be enacted without economic cost.

Unfortunately, these statistics are seriously misleading and are not a useful metric for understanding in Washington State, says Myers:

  • Most emissions reductions in the United Kingdom occurred prior to adoption of the cap-and-trade system.
  • Emissions reductions have come as a result of a switch from coal to natural gas, an opportunity that does not exist in Washington state.
  • In the area of most concern to Washington, transportation emissions, the United Kingdom has actually seen an increase.
  • We cannot expect the results of the United Kingdom to be replicated in Washington state; indeed, they have not even been replicated elsewhere in Europe.

Source: Todd Myers, "The Misleading and Misplaced Statistics of Cap-and-Trade in Britain: Claims of cap-and-trade success in Britain are overstated and don't apply to Washington," Washington Policy Center, March 27, 2009.


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