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Change is about the only commodity worth banking on right now. Its stocks are sure to soar, and there is a guaranteed plentiful and growing supply.

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Change is about the only commodity worth banking on right now. Its stocks are sure to soar, and there is a guaranteed plentiful and growing supply. At this moment it remains to be seen whether the US$ 700 billion American bailout plan and its European equivalents will rescue the world’s economy from a prolonged and severe depression, but a period of recession, certainly for most Western countries, seems inevitable. That said, I have no greater claim to the gift of foresight than the leaders of our governments and financial institutions have proven they have, and it would be unwise to make predictions in the current climate.

One result of the global financial crisis that has already become apparent however is its effect on Europe’s environmental policy. Before the crisis European leaders had planned for binding legislation to be in place by December of this year committing EU countries to strong emissions regulations which were supposed to lead the way for the rest of the world. The original deal required EU countries to cut CO2 emissions by 20% from a base line of 1990 levels by 2020, but a revolt by eight countries including Italy and Poland looks set to derail these ambitious plans. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has claimed that in light of the new financial reality, Italian businesses ‘are in absolutely no position at the moment to absorb the costs of the regulations that have been proposed.’ Seven other former Warsaw Pact countries have also refused to abide by the agreement, anxious about the effect it will have on their respective industries. The efforts of the current EU and French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, to shore up the deal have only resulted in all 27 nations signing up to confirm their ‘determination to honour the ambitious commitments.’ The targets are not binding, nor are they likely to become so, so it is highly unlikely they will be met.

The result of this climbdown will be Europe losing its position as world leader in tackling climate change, and more importantly a complete loss of moral authority on the matter that will in the very least delay the development of a global plan. The long term environmental and economic consequences of such decisions could be disastrous, which is why the British government at least has actually decided to strengthen its policy. The new Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Ed Miliband, has said that Britain will increase its target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from 60% to 80% by 2050. So perhaps Gordon Brown’s newly reinvigorated government could show the same world leadership on environmental issues as it has done on economic issues of late?

Readers particularly concerned with the issue of refinery emissions should turn to Jean-Francois Larivé of CONCAWE’s article ‘Emission control Europe’, starting on p.17, which discusses in detail the problem of CO2 emissions from EU refineries. Elsewhere in this issue David Hayes examines the expansion of the refining industry in Malaysia (p.12) and Byres Security, JM Campbell & Co. and Honeywell contribute to our keynote feature on security.