TCS COP 10 Coverage: Premature Congratulation

<?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Buenos Aires — “Post-2012”! is the mantra of thousands of bureaucrats and pressure group advocates meeting here this week here, referring to discussions about further climate change emission reduction commitments to follow the Kyoto Protocol's expiry in eight years. But these cries recall what Albert Einstein once said: “The definition of insanity is doing the same things and expecting a different outcome.” As such, the stubborn Kyoto negotiators seem in need of help. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” /> 

<?xml:namespace prefix = u1 />The Kyoto Protocol's first round of emission reductions cover merely 34 countries and only for a five-year period (2008-2012). The original thinking had it that this first round would comprise rich countries reaping what Klaus Toepfer of the UN Environment Programme calls the “low hanging fruit”.  Following this harvest, the treaty's architects believed, many among the 160 exempt countries would jump on board enticed by the prospect of the industrialized countries buying carbon dioxide and other GHG credits to meet their ever deeper phase II greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions.  Such credits may only be obtained from other covered states.


Only, it hasn't worked out that way. The well-known U.S. refusal to ratify Kyoto eliminated the biggest customer for potential members selling tons of “hot air”. As such, their price, and lure, has collapsed.  Russia recently ratified, bringing Kyoto into effect early next year. However, President Putin's outspoken economic advisor, Andrei Illarionov, vocally and serially slams GHG rationing as a Soviet-style mortgage on Russia's future.  Such persistent commentary from Putin's inner sanctum cannot be taken as anything but sanctioned speech.  Expect Russia, with no reduction obligations but only a future cap, to auction off its plentiful GHG tons and then renegotiate under threat of withdrawal.


Europe, despite its rhetoric of moral superiority, remains poised to be laughably out of compliance by the baseline measuring period of 2008-10. Indeed, 13 of the EU-15 expect to be in violation, with at least one-third of them above their quota by 20 percent or more:  Spain, Portugal, Austria, Denmark, Ireland, and Belgium. Far from dropping, European emissions are expected to rise 19 percent by 2025.


Compounding these woes is that under Kyoto's terms, if the two compliant EU nations—UK and Sweden—cannot drag their peers into an 8 percent overall “EU bubble” reduction, each member state is on its own to achieve that cut under sanction of a much higher commitment. And as punishment, those “flexible mechanisms” that purportedly would facilitate phase I compliance—such as the use of nuclear power—are made unavailable toward an emission obligation.  Given this, the truth of the matter is Europe is no better at satisfying Kyoto than the demonized U.S.


To borrow a Broadway analogy, the current futile negotiation here in Buenos Aires closed on opening night.  On the very first day of COP-10 the G77 (the name for the grouping of least developed countries) and China issued a statement reaffirming their refusal to discuss Kyoto commitments of their own. The stated justification for the unwillingness to restrict themselves is that not only do rich and poor countries bear special and differentiated responsibilities, but wealthy countries have not yet fulfilled their own promises in emissions cuts.


Consequently, that same day the Chairman of the COP announced that this year there will be no attempt to produce the joint declaration at the meetings' close, a white flag of surrender that there would be no concrete achievement at this COP.


Possibly in recognition of Kyoto's futility, one of two marquee events today was a much-anticipated report “International Climate Efforts Beyond 2012: A Survey of Approaches,” from the Pew Center for Global Climate Change. As a mere survey, the document avoids overt advocacy, and laudably acknowledges a change of tack might be in order (one option it suggests: “an Orchestra of Treaties”). Upon scrutiny, the report is an admission by one of Kyoto's most ardent and ideological cheerleaders of the scheme's failure.


The denominator among these proposals remains that developed countries should develop much more slowly if at all, and the others should only do so via the elites' preferred methods. Until this state of affairs changes, continuing treaty negotiations as such fails to add seriousness to the process.