Features

Beyond Kyoto

"Beyond Kyoto" Continued...

Issue: "Opium wars," May 12, 2007

The result: Kyoto's goal of reducing the combined emissions of EU nations by 8 percent from 1990 levels by 2012 is highly improbable. In fact, the numbers are likely to continue creeping upward.

Outside Europe, a growing chorus of Kyoto dissent is joining the once isolated Bush administration. Canadian environment minister John Baird announced new emissions targets last month that effectively toss Kyoto to the policy scrap heap. The new standards call for reductions per unit of production, a measuring system that may actually allow emissions to rise amid a growing economy.

Canadian Green Party leader Elizabeth May was furious, describing such backing down from Kyoto as "worse than Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of the Nazis." But the plan won't appease economic pain, costing Canada an estimated $7 billion annually.

Such high costs have prompted nations such as China, India, Australia, and Turkey to join the United States in avoiding Kyoto's top-down carbon-cutting method. To the surprise of many Europeans, the U.S. approach of technology investment and voluntary emissions reductions has proved more effective than Kyoto. Figures from the International Energy Agency (IEA) show that U.S. CO2 emissions from fuel combustion grew 1.7 percent from 2000 to 2004 while European Union emissions of the same kind increased 5 percent.

Furthermore, the U.S. approach presents the only realistic possibility for including the developing economies of China and India in global efforts to reduce emissions. China recently reiterated its opposition to any international pact that would stifle its use of cheap energy to grow its economy. Chinese officials argue that G8 nations got rich by ignoring environmental concerns and that China is due that same opportunity.

If new technologies emerge to reduce emissions without substantially increasing energy costs, China, India, and other developing nations would be able to participate. Such inclusion is critical to global emissions strategies given new estimates from the IEA that China will pass the United States as the world's top emitter of greenhouse gases before the end of the year.

In a meeting last month with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, President Bush expressed his desire that Japan contribute its technological capabilities and expertise to the hunt for new carbon-cutting technologies. The leaders discussed the further development and construction of nuclear power plants, an existing technology that could drastically reduce CO2 emissions.

If Bush has his way, such technology-centered discussions will dominate the global dialogue post-Kyoto, elbowing out talk of top-down emissions caps or carbon-trading schemes. The Bush administration wants nations to operate independently in the drive to cut emissions, an affront to the UN's globalist approach.

New strategies will be fodder for the G8 summit next month in Germany, an opportunity for the fallout from Kyoto to take center stage-and for the proven detrimental treaty to rest in peace.

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