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Bush Administration Creates Alternative to Kyoto

 

DATE: August 19, 2005

BACKGROUND: Unveiled with precious little fanfare July 27, the Asian-Pacific Partnership for Clean Development and Climate Change tells us some of what President Bush meant when he spoke of the "post-Kyoto era" at the recent G-8 summit in Scotland.  Composed of the United States, Australia, China, India, South Korea, and Japan, the partnership, according to the White House, will "allow our nations to develop and accelerate deployment of cleaner, more efficient energy technologies to meet national pollution reduction, energy security, and climate change concerns in ways that reduce poverty and promote economic development."  Among other things, the partnership will promote the use of clean coal, liquified natural gas, methane capture and use, next-generation nuclear power, bioenergy, and advanced transportation technologies.

TEN SECOND RESPONSE: In a stunning move that presages the demise of the Kyoto Protocol, the United States has teamed up with five leading Asian-Pacific countries to create a science-based alternative to the beleaguered global warming treaty.

THIRTY SECOND RESPONSE: The future of global warming policy is not in an unwieldy, unworkable treaty that sets arbitrary limits on greenhouse-gas emissions.  Putting the world on a strict energy diet is no way to foster prosperity in industrialized countries, or to overcome poverty in underdeveloped nations. Nor can it deal with whatever our fickle climate has in store for us.  By offering an alternative to Kyoto, the U.S. and its partners have erected a beacon of hope for the rest of the world.

DISCUSSION:

In a stunning move that presages the demise of the Kyoto Protocol, the United States has teamed up with five leading Asian-Pacific countries to create a science-based alternative to the beleaguered global warming treaty.

Unveiled with precious little fanfare July 27, the Asian-Pacific Partnership for Clean Development and Climate Change goes a long way toward explaining what President Bush meant when he spoke of the "post-Kyoto era" at the recent G-8 summit in Scotland.  Composed of the United States, Australia, China, India, South Korea, and Japan, the partnership, according to the White House, will "allow our nations to develop and accelerate deployment of cleaner, more efficient energy technologies to meet national pollution reduction, energy security, and climate change concerns in ways that reduce poverty and promote economic development."1  Among other things, the partnership will promote the use of clean coal, liquified natural gas, methane capture and use, next-generation nuclear power, bioenergy, and advanced transportation technologies.2

A year in the making, and initiated by the Bush administration, the partnership is worlds apart from the UN-sponsored Kyoto Protocol,3 which sets strict limits on man-made greenhouse-gas emissions from industrialized countries.  The partnership, by contrast, is a voluntary, non-regulatory pact, existing completely outside the structure of the UN, that sees technology -- and not bureaucracy -- as the best way to deal with the world's soaring energy needs and to cope with climate change, should the latter become a problem.

"It's quite clear the Kyoto Protocol won't get the world to where it wants to go...We have got to find something that works better -- Australia is working on that with partners around the world," Australian environment minister Ian Campbell said.4  Campbell's reference to countries "around the world" is a non-too-subtle hint that the Asian-Pacific partnership will go global before long.  A look at the current membership of the partnership tells why.  The U.S. and Australia, having reasoned that the Kyoto Protocol's restrictions on the use of fossil fuels would be disastrous for their economies, rejected the global warming treaty.  India, China, and South Korea, as developing countries, are exempt from treaty's limits on greenhouse-gas emissions and desperately need energy to fuel their growing economies.  That leaves Japan, which has ratified the protocol, but, like so many other industrialized countries, cannot meet its Kyoto targets without crippling its economy.

That Japan, where the Kyoto Protocol was adopted in 1997, would join the partnership, speaks volumes about how the Japanese see their future.  It is not in an unwieldy, unworkable treaty that sets arbitrary limits on greenhouse-gas emissions.  Look for other countries, many of them well outside the Asian-Pacific region, to follow Japan's example and sign up with the partnership.

The next big catch could well be Germany.  Polls show the opposition Christian Democrats and Free Democrats holding a big lead in parliamentary elections scheduled for Sept. 18.  Should that trend hold, as appears almost certain, the new chancellor will be Angela Merkel, who will be looking for ways to reinvigorate Germany's stagnant economy.  Already saddled with double-digit unemployment, Germany cannot recover under Kyoto's energy straight-jacket.  Like Japan, Germany would formally stay within the Kyoto framework so as not to ruffle too many diplomatic feathers.  This will enable both countries to maintain the fiction of adherence to Kyoto while seeking their energy fortunes in Bush's partnership.  Once Germany takes this step, other countries will follow suit, and Kyoto will be left to wither on the vine.     

Ostensibly created to deal with the alleged threat of global warming by suppressing the use of fossil fuels, the Kyoto Protocol was seen in some European quarters as a means to rein in the robust U.S. economy and "level the playing field" between the EU and the U.S.5.  But Bush's rejection of the global warming treaty left the Europeans tied to the ball and chain that is Kyoto.  Now they have to comply with the treaty's unattainable targets.  For the Europeans, Kyoto has become a self-inflicted wound. 

Putting the world on a strict energy diet is no way to foster prosperity in industrialized countries, or to overcome poverty in underdeveloped nations. Nor can it deal with whatever our fickle climate has in store for us.  By offering an alternative to Kyoto, the U.S. and its partners have erected a beacon of hope for the rest of the world.


by Bonner Cohen

Contact the author at: 202-543-4110

The National Center for Public Policy Research
501 Capitol Court, N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20002






Footnotes:

1. Miguel Bustillo, "Gov. Vows Attack on Global Warming," Los Angeles Times, June 2, 2005

2. See http://www.cbrt.org/other_exec_summary.html and http://www.nfib.com/object/sbcca0605.html

3. Bjorn Lomborg, "The Truth About the Environment," The Economist 4 August 2001: 65

4. Bjorn Lomborg, The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, U.K., 2001): 305-318

 


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