US Rejection of Kyoto at Heart of States’ Climate Pact

Sir, The Atlantic rarely seems a greater divide than when discussing climate change and the Kyoto protocol. This is increasingly apparent in the case of the breathless reception given by the Financial Times and European Union policymakers to any climate initiative announced by a governmental subdivision of the US.

Once again, the FT describes an incomparable proposal as similar in scope to Kyoto and manifesting a step towards US acceptance of the treaty (“US takes a piecemeal approach to Kyoto”, August 26). Yet US rejection of Kyoto is the express basis for the proposed climate pact between nine north-eastern US states, as revealed by the internal memo prompting widespread media coverage of the initiative.

Further, the FT amazingly hails the proposed emission cuts of 10 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020 as “not far off the cuts required of the participants in the Kyoto climate change protocol”. This is patently insupportable, and one can almost hear the howls of protest by FT or EU policymakers were such numbers proposed by the US as a Kyoto substitute.

In the event of US ratification, Kyoto as it stands would require emission cuts over 2008-12 to 7 per cent below the 1990 baseline, with an operative proposal for “round two” cuts of 30 per cent by 2020. The latter timetable for deep cuts is the same target year for which US states propose what is actually an emissions increase over the same 1990 baseline.

Specifically, the north-eastern states propose to freeze emissions at current levels – 20 per cent above 1990 – and, by 2020, reduce them to 10 per cent below today. If achieved, that would leave them well above Kyoto’s 1990 baseline and target and hardly within view of Kyoto’s own 2020 plan.

In all fairness, given figures from the EU, Japan and Canada among others projecting violation of “round one,” that particular Kyoto fantasy deservedly stands little chance of ever being agreed, let alone by the US.

Regardless, the upshot of the FT’s coverage of US climate policy perpetuates the EU Kyoto life-support campaign: “Don’t give up the ship, help is on the way.” From Gleneagles to Vientiane, and now New York to Portland, Maine, the reality is otherwise.