28 juli 2005

The end of Kyoto? (The Flemish Beerdrinker)

Or are we getting something on top of that?

The United States, the world’s top polluter, is set to unveil a five-nation pact to combat global warming by developing energy technology to cut greenhouse gas emissions, officials said on Wednesday. China and India, whose burgeoning economies comprise a third of humanity, as well as Australia and South Korea are part of the agreement to tackle climate change beyond the U.N.’s Kyoto protocol. The United States and Australia are the only developed nations outside Kyoto, which demands cuts in greenhouse emissions by 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12. Both say Kyoto is flawed because it omits developing states. Diplomats in the Laotian capital Vientiane said the pact would be formally announced on Thursday when U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick holds a news conference attended by representatives of the other signatories. Zoellick is attending a regional forum in Laos. Details of the pact were unclear but it appears to echo recent comments by President Bush who advocates the use of technology to curb growth in greenhouse gas emissions rather than setting Kyoto-style caps on emissions. Bush believes Kyoto would threaten the U.S. economy even though many of his allies see it as a vital step to brake a rise in temperatures they fear could trigger more floods, storms, lift sea levels and drive thousands of species to extinction.

I’m not a fan of Kyoto, as Tim Haab says in a comment, Kyoto targets quantities, while it should target prices, and letting the market do the rest. But the details of the new U.S. plan are too much in the dark yet to make any positive or negative statement about it. It seems to target new technologies, so it indeed could just be a new r&d-program. It could even be a command-and-control-program if it it set in advance what kind of technologies they want to develop (hydrogen, clean coal?). A good point however is that developing countries will be included, because they will contribute most to global warming when it really starts to matter. We have to find ways to make them grow without contributing to global warming. That’s the main task. I wonder if the new agreement will be better at this than Kyoto. Developing.

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