GLOBAL SHIFTS ON GLOBAL WARMING
By David Rothbard & Craig Rucker
It didn’t turn out that way. The G-8 meeting and new initiatives such as the Methane to Markets (M2M), and the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate strongly suggest world leaders appear to be moving away from Kyoto and towards President Bush’s climate change position.
Long before the Kyoto Protocol came into force in February, 2005, the M2M agreement was signed in July, 2004, by the United States, the United Kingdom, India, Ukraine, Mexico, and Italy. The agreement between these six nations alone would reduce the total global greenhouse gas emissions by one percent and is estimated to remove 50 million metric tons of methane by 2015.
By contrast, Kyoto will not remove any methane from the atmosphere. By the United Nations own admission, Kyoto would reduce global warming by less than 0.015oC by the 22nd century. It would cost hundreds of billions of dollars annually to achieve this insignificant result.
M2M would be the equivalent of taking 33 million cars off the road annually, eliminating 50 coal-fired electric plants, or foregoing the energy use of 7.2 million homes a year. In the United States this is estimated to cost only $53 million over five years. Reducing methane emissions is far more effective than reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions because methane is 20 to 30 times more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2. Moreover, methane is relatively easy to control and offers financial paybacks to factories by eliminating lost production.
The geopolitical significance of the M2M initiative wasn’t apparent until July's G-8 meeting. The joint statement issued at its conclusion acknowledged, "uncertainties remain in our understanding of climate change." Although the statement diplomatically re-affirmed the goals of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the work of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, it did so with irestrained moderation.
The G-8 leaders pledged "to put ourselves on a path to slow and [to] stop, and then [to] reverse the growth of greenhouse gases," but only "as the science justifies." This is in sharp contrast to previous proclamations of the immediate need to implement the Kyoto Protocol, regardless of cost.
Even more striking, the G-8 joint statement doesn’t mention the scientifically dubious predictions of worsening weather conditions that have included catastrophic claims of drought, increasing storm frequency, famine, and other "catastrophes" global warming adherents have cited.
Instead, the joint statement emphasized the promotion of “innovation, energy efficiency, conservation; [improving] policy, regulatory and financing frameworks; and [accelerating] deployment of cleaner technologies, particularly lower-emitting technologies.”
This is precisely what President Bush emphasized when he removed the U.S.A. from the Kyoto Protocol in 2001 and focused our nation’s attention, instead, on free-market approaches like the M2M initiative.
Another shift from the Kyoto Protocol by the G-8 is its position on the need to stress adaptation technology. "Adaptation to the effects of climate change, due to both natural and human factors, is a high priority for all nations," the statement reads.
Finally, the G-8 acknowledged that no climate policy would be successful if it does not include the rapidly growing nations of China and India. These nations are currently second and third in the world in terms of greenhouse gas emissions today and will soon be the leading emitters of greenhouse gases as they seek economic growth that will keep pace with population growth.
Efforts are already underway to include China, India, and other nations in a more coherent, science-based climate change program. M2M already includes India, and more nations will likely join the agreement.
The full magnitude of the geopolitical shift away from Kyoto did not come, however, until July 26, 2005, when the U.S.A. led a six-nation partnership of Pacific states in a new agreement on global warming.
The U.S., Australia, China, India, South Korea, and Japan comprise the group. Called the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, the six-nation plan emphasizes the need for increased access to affordable and reliable energy in the developing world, and flexibility in reaching its environmental goals. The “vision statement” for the new initiative reflects the G-8 Action Plan.
The Partnership’s vision is to cooperate and share “existing and emerging cost-effective, cleaner technologies and practices.” These technologies include, but are not limited to: “energy efficiency, clean coal, integrated gasification combined cycle, liquefied natural gas, carbon capture and storage, combined heat and power, methane capture and use, civilian nuclear power, geothermal, rural/village energy systems, advanced transportation, building and home construction and operation, bio-energy, agriculture and forestry, hydropower, wind power, solar power, and other renewables.”
The emphasis, as it should be, appears to be on “cost-effective” solutions. M2M, of course, fits perfectly within this vision. Although the statement diplomatically states that the Partnership effort runs in “parallel” with Kyoto, it is, in fact, a radical departure from Kyoto.
Many thought the Kyoto Protocol was dead several times in the past, only to have it resurrect itself like the fabled Phoenix. Although Kyoto is diplomatically included in the language of the G-8 Plan of Action and the Asia-Pacific Partnership, the new approach differs radically, suggesting that Kyoto may finally be left to wither on the vine.
It is encouraging that positive, free-market alternatives, based on sound science, are actually making their way into the public policy arena, particularly at the international level.
David Rothbard is President, and Craig Rucker is Executive Director, of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), a public interest organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., and focusing on policy issues relating to the environment, public health, energy needs, technological progress, and economic growth and development. CFACT maintains that the solutions to our concerns about the environment and development are to found in political and economic freedom, protection of private property rights, encouragement of competition, free markets, and technological advancement.
The foregoing article by David Rothbard and Craig Rucker was originally published on www.cfact.org, the Internet website maintained by the Committee for a Construtive Tomorrow.
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