Friday, October 30, 2009

Kyoto’s son, Copenhagen, will also be a failure

By Ian Connerty, guest columnist

Back in December 1997 a United Nations protocol was signed in Kyoto, Japan to reduce world wide emissions of greenhouse gases as a way of fighting global warming.

The Kyoto Protocol, as it came to be called, took effect in February 2005 and by October 2009, 184 countries had ratified the treaty.

But since Kyoto was signed, greenhouse gas emissions have actually gone up, not down.

That’s because the United States, the county that produced the most greenhouse gases at the time, accounting for 36% of all emissions in the world, refused to sign Kyoto.

US President George W. Bush felt that so-called developing countries like China and even Russia were given an unfair advantage because they had zero reduction targets under the protocol.

He was right. By August 2008, China passed the US as the world’s biggest emitter of CO2. And since 2000, greenhouse gas emissions from China have increased by 120% as their economy has come to life. China now accounts for 20% of all worldwide emissions.

Kyoto is a failure.

In order to “save” Kyoto, the United Nations will be pushing for a new and tougher emission reduction protocol this December in Copenhagen. It would come into force after Kyoto expires 2012.

As far as the United Nations is concerned, Kyoto was only the beginning, asking for modest reductions in emissions. For European Union countries the reduction target was 8%, for Canada it was 6% and for Russia and China it was zero.

The Copenhagen targets will be much higher. The UN wants to cut global emissions by 60 to 80 per cent by 2020.

And fighting climate change will very, very costly.

While Kyoto is estimated to have cost Europe $23 Billion to comply, by way of funding clean technology projects in developing counties, Copenhagen sets the price tag at $250 Billion PER YEAR by 2020.

On the positive side, the UN also says there will be new markets for low carbon energy products of around $500 Billion by 2050.

However the biggest polluters, the US and China must sign on for Copenhagen to happen. China says it will only consider signing if the US does.

And that doesn’t seem likely, even under a new President who is more committed to fighting climate change than his predecessor.

The US Senate is stalling legislation which would make it easier for Mr. Obama to sign Copenhagen.

As a result, both President Obama and the UN are down playing expectations for this December. In fact, Mr. Obama is now saying he may not even attend.

Without a commitment from the United States to a new international climate change Protocol, China will also say no. And so will Russia, and so on and so on.

Kyoto is dead, and its beginning to look like Kyoto’s son is on life support.