Time to rethink Kyoto

The Kyoto Protocol for the reduction of greenhouse gases to avoid climate change was unachievable when it was adopted in 1997, according to distinguished economist Thomas Schelling, and more recent negotiations and modifications to the treaty have done nothing to change that. Since the U.S. Senate, prior to the Kyoto negotiations, had gone on record as rejecting any treaty that did not include full participation by developing countries, and the Kyoto Protocol did not require such participation, neither President Clinton nor President Bush submitted the treaty to the Senate for ratification.

Schelling notes several flaws with the treaty, including:

  • The emission reduction goals in the treaty are too high for the short-term and few if any developed countries will make the economic sacrifices necessary to meet them.

  • There is no legitimate enforcement regime.

  • The emission reduction goals were set despite there being no consensus concerning what concentration of greenhouse gases would constitute unacceptable damage.

  • The treaty sets unfeasible short-term goals rather than focusing on the reasonable pace of technological change that might actually produce emission reductions over the long term – and the problem is a long-term one.

    Schelling argues that rather than requiring mandatory emission reduction goals that won't be met or attempting to establish a complex and ultimately unworkable emissions trading scheme, that developed countries "spread the wealth" to get developing nations to reduce their future emissions in the most economically efficient manner. This might take the form of transferring energy-efficient technologies to developing countries or funding the building of less polluting power plants in them. He recognises that such foreign aid might be difficult to sell politically in developed countries but that it would be cheaper and more effective than the solutions proposed in the Kyoto Protocol.

    Source: Thomas C. Schelling, What Makes Sense?; Time to Rethink the Kyoto Protocol, Foreign Affairs, May-June 2002.

    For more on Global Warming http://www.ncpa.org/iss/env

    RSA Comment:
    Developing countries, such as South Africa, should be wary of adopting environmental programmes that will impose huge costs on its poor populace. When the developed nations of the world were in our current stage of development they did not impose strict environmental rules on themselves. The rules were only initiated when those nations were on average five to eight times wealthier than South Africans are now. First world politicians and activists are attempting to persuade Third World nations not to utilise resources such as timber, marshlands and minerals that their own nations exploited extensively in the past. The logic appears to be that developing nations should expiate the sins of past First World generations no matter what burden it places on Third World citizens. The answer to the problem is simple. Whatever the First Wolders wish to save in the Third World they should purchase at market prices and hold in custody for posterity.
    Eustace Davie, Director, FMF.

    FMF Policy Bulletin\11 June 2002
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