A Better Environmental Treaty

Please allow me to add to James Glassman's excellent analysis of how the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, which the United States recently announced, has shown the Kyoto Protocol to be yesterday's answer to yesterday's assessment of tomorrow's problem (“Way beyond Kyoto,” Commentary, Wednesday).

In short, various factors should leave us all wary of any interventionist meddling in markets, and, specifically, government attempts to pick technological winners. Yet the potential that this new agreement holds to reform the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Kyoto debate and supplant such a regime as the operative post-2012 framework leaves me a strong cheerleader.

Yes, this pact is an alternative, as its critics bemoan, but not to Kyoto itself, a five-year agreement that nothing could drag Europe into abandoning, although it isn't even complying. Also, contrary to green propaganda, having both Kyoto signatories and nonparticipants sign a new agreement is a symptom, not a determinant, of Kyoto's failure.

This is an alternative to something that does not yet exist: a post-2012 agreement. (The current European Union negotiating posture, demanding even deeper rationing despite failure on the first go-round, ensures that such an agreement never will exist.)

The Asia-Pacific treaty occupies that field until something more attractive comes along for the 155 nations that have rejected Kyoto's cuts. Finally, it is Kyoto's death knell to all but the most intransigent because it accomplishes what Kyoto failed to do: It brings together the top emitters, prominently including the two major advanced economies (Australia and the United States) that refused to ratify and the two major developing economies that did ratify, but on the condition that they be exempt from any rationing (China and India).

Also important is the remarkably symbolic involvement of the host of the Kyoto talks, Japan, as a founding member.

To borrow the alarmists' claim that is ritually, if absurdly, made about the science: “We have a consensus against greenhouse gas (energy) rationing, and the consensus is growing.”

Ultimately, President Bush has cleverly managed this issue to leave the sole outstanding question to be whether the increasingly isolated — dare I say unilateral? — European Union can accept a political loss and return to the table seeking practical responses to the challenge of potential anthropogenic climate change that are grounded in science and can be accepted widely.