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Vol. VI, No. 10

Cooler Heads Digest

Title

Vol. VI, No. 10

Politics 

U.S. Out of Kyoto For A Decade - At Least

There is no chance that the United States will get back into the Kyoto Protocol before 2012, according to Dr. Harlan Watson, the U. S. State Department’s senior climate negotiator.  The Times of London (May 14, 2002) reported comments made by Watson while in London for talks with British officials.

“We have set 2012 as the date to take stock and if there’s going to be a review of policy that is the time to do it,” he said.  “We are not going to be part of the Kyoto Protocol for the foreseeable future and the 2005 review is not something we intend on being actively engaged in.”

When asked if that means that U.S. ratification of the Kyoto Protocol has been ruled out for the next decade, Watson responded, “That is correct that there is no chance before 2012.  In order for any treaty to be ratified, it needs 67 votes in the Senate, and Kyoto is thus an unratifiable treaty.  There’s no way that the U.S. could participate, even if the President sent it up again.”  This remains true in Watson’s judgment even if a Democrat were elected president in 2004 or 2008.

On a related note, Undersecretary of State Paula Dobriansky responded on May 15 to an April 8 letter from Christopher Horner, the Cooler Heads Coalition’s counsel.  Horner’s letter laid out the case for the U. S. government to remove its signature from the Kyoto Protocol.  Dobriansky responded that, “President Bush and this administration have made clear on numerous occasions that the Kyoto Protocol is fatally flawed and that the United States will not participate in it.”  She did not address the inconsistency between un-signing the Rome treaty creating the International Criminal Court and keeping the U. S. signature on Kyoto. 

California Assembly Delays CO2 Vote

The California Assembly has postponed a vote on a bill that would regulate greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles.  The bill, AB 1058, would require the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to formulate rules to achieve the “maximum feasible and cost-effective” emissions reductions.  If passed into law, the bill would go into effect in 2006 and apply to the 2009 model year.

The Assembly originally passed AB 1058 earlier this year, but must now approve minor Senate changes before it can be sent to Governor Davis.  The reported reason the vote has been postponed is that bill supporters aren’t certain that they have the votes (Greenwire, May 15, 2002).  In the last few weeks, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers has mounted a large-scale campaign against the measure, including radio and newspaper advertising.  The United Auto Workers union has now also come out strongly against it. 

According to the San Jose Mercury News (May 14, 2002), Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla (D) originally voted for the bill out of courtesy to its sponsor, Assemblywoman Fran Pavley (D), but is now having second thoughts.  He fears that the bill would give CARB too much power.  “There is a certain amount of disagreement as to the science and what we can do," Canciamilla said. "I am wondering now if [the bill] is something that makes sense.”  

Canada Finding Reasons Not To Ratify

The Canadian government has just released “A Discussion Paper on Canada’s Contribution to Addressing Climate Change.”  The paper first sets out the problem: “Business-as-usual projections would see Canada’s GHG emissions rise to approximately 809 MT [megatons] by 2010. Canada’s Kyoto target is 571 MT by 2010, creating a “gap” of about 240 MT that must be addressed.”

The cost of meeting that target, according to the discussion paper, would be between zero and two percent of GDP by 2010.  Instead of growing 31 percent by 2010, GDP would only grow by 29 percent at worst.  “The AMG [Analysis and Modelling Group] estimates indicate that, unless policies are well designed, the impact could be uneven across provinces and territories. This is particularly true for the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland.”

The paper offers several options for meeting Canada’s Kyoto target, such as a domestic emissions trading program, more specific measures targeted at consumers or particular sectors of the economy, or government purchases of international permits.

Campaign ExxonMobile Warns Of "Tobacco Suits"

A new report released by Campaign ExxonMobil, the group responsible for bringing shareholder resolutions to harass the company for its position on global warming, says that the company is risking shareholder value by opposing global warming regulation.  ExxonMobil called the analysis “ridiculous.”

The most interesting part of the report is a side bar which threatens that ExxonMobil and other corporations that do not get behind efforts to ration energy will find themselves being hauled into court.  “It is highly likely that serious damage will occur as a result of climate change,” says the report.  “The aggrieved parties are likely to seek compensation from those who (sic) they regard as responsible.”

The report continues, “While ExxonMobil is no stranger to billion dollar lawsuits, climate change actions could swamp even those seen in the tobacco industry.  The potential value at risk here could easily exceed $100 billion, especially as annual losses from climate change could significantly exceed that figure.

“Even if ExxonMobil escapes liability, it could be dragged into interminable lawsuits, at considerable expense and loss of management time.  One estimate is that Philip Morris spent as much as $700 million on lawyers in the 1990s.”   The report, by Mark Mansley, head of Claros Consulting, can be downloaded at www.campaignexxonmobil.org.

Greenpeace released another attack on ExxonMobil just in time for the international week of protest against the oil giant, which culminates on May 18 with boycotts and demonstrations at Esso stations throughout Britain.  Denial and Deception: A Chronicle of ExxonMobil’s Efforts to Corrupt the Debate on Global Warming may be downloaded at http://www.greenpeaceusa.org/climate/pdfs/exxon_denial.pdf

The Greenpeace “report” contains some astonishing claims, of which we quote only one: “It was recently reported that Exxon and Mobil spent approximately $1 billion financing the GCC [Global Climate Coalition], though accurate figures may never be known.”  A footnote cites an article in the April 5 Guardian newspaper by environment correspondent Paul Brown.  Brown’s article offers no source or evidence for the figure and refers to the GCC as the Climate Change Convention. 

Economics

Rethinking Kyoto

An article in Foreign Affairs (May/June 2002) by Thomas C. Schelling, Distinguished Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at the University of Maryland, argues that it is time to rethink the Kyoto Protocol.

When President Bush rejected Kyoto, he did so for three reasons, according to Schelling.