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Can't Win Kyoto
Some of the arguments that get thrown up to show why Kyoto is doomed to failure illustrate the big difficulty we face in terms of organizing action to address global problems. Unfortunately, these arguments seem to only contribute to the difficulty inherent in negotiating cooperation and coordinated action. Michel Den Tandt, in the Globe and Mail's business section makes the following points (whose order I have rearranged here for clarity):
If excessive concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane, caused by human activity, are indeed warming the planet (and there remains much debate on the subject), the Kyoto Protocol is no solution. For a reason, we need look no further than the latest economic data from China. China -- like India, Mexico, Brazil, and every other developing nation -- is not aiming to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 6 per cent below 1990 levels by 2012. China wants to grow its still-tiny middle class as quickly as it possibly can. Many of China's billion citizens believe -- and who can blame them -- that they finally have a shot at some of the consumer luxuries that Westerners have long taken for granted. The niceties of Western environmental idealism will not dent that ambition one iota, now or in the future. This year, for the first time, Chinese auto sales exceeded one million. According to Reuters, 1.02 million models were sold from January through November -- a 55.4-per-cent jump from the previous year. But despite this stellar growth, auto ownership is still extremely rare. Last year, China had about 1.5 cars per thousand people, compared with a global average of 90. Now combine this with Chinese economic growth this year of about 8 per cent, and China's stated goal of quadrupling its gross domestic product by 2020.
In this he certainly has a point in inferring that exemptions for developing economies make the success of the pact difficult. However, consider the difficulties that must have been faced at the time of negotiations. The world could either agree to a system like the one they have now, where emissions are rolled back... or what? The inferences by some who complain about exemptions for third-world countries forget the alternative: per-capita emissions levels. If fairness is what is being argued for, then one way to reach fairness would have been to divide the target amount of emissions by the number of human beings to produce a per capita level. Then, each country could have been told its target and been asked to cut. Unfortunately, you can imagine how unacceptable this would have been. The United States is said to be responsible for 36.1% of GHG emissions (1990 number). And yet, by my calculation, they are only about 5% of the world's population. To reach the 1990 target, Americans would have had to reduce their emissions by 86% under a flat emissions plan! Obviously, a per-capita emissions deal would have been impossible. On the other hand, another approach could have been to tell all countries to reduce to 1990 levels. But this would have been unfair to the developing nations to tell them that they must not increase their emissions at all. To them, that would clearly look like a good way to keep them permanently undeveloped. So, instead we got the negotiated compromise that we have now. Anti-Kyoto commentators claim that exemptions for countries like China are unfair, forgetting that such exemptions were necessarily part of the negotiations.

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