In the weeks leading up to the early July G-8 meeting in Scotland, environmental activists and analysts predicted the heat would be turned up on President George Bush during the meeting to sign the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. To the contrary, the G- 8 meeting and other new initiatives such as the Methane to Markets (M2M) and the Asia- Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, strongly suggest world leaders appear to be moving away from Kyoto and towards Bush’s climate change position.
Long before the Kyoto Protocol came into force in February 2005, the M2M agreement was signed by the United States, United Kingdom, India, Ukraine, Mexico, and Italy in July 2004. The agreement between these six nations alone would reduce the total global greenhouse gas emissions by a surprising 1 percent. The initiative will remove 50 million metric tons by 2015. Kyoto will not remove any methane from the atmosphere. Kyoto, by the United Nations own admission, would reduce global warming by less than 0.015 degrees Celcius by the 22nd century at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars annually.
M2M would be the equivalent of taking 33 million cars off the road annually, eliminating 50 coal-fired electric plants or forgoing the energy use of 7.2 million homes a year. All this comes at a cost of a measly $53 million over five years in the United States. Reducing methane emissions is far more effective than carbon dioxide (CO2) because it is 20 to 30 times more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2. Further, it is relatively easy to control and offers financial paybacks to factories by eliminating lost production.
The geopolitical significance of the radical departure of M2M from Kyoto wasn’t apparent until July’s G-8 meeting. The joint statement issued at the conclusion of the G- 8 acknowledged, “uncertainties remain in our understanding of climate change.” Although the statement diplomatically reaffirmed the goals of the UNFCCC and the work of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, it did so with restrained moderation.
The G-8 leaders pledged “to put ourselves on a path to slow and…stop and then reverse the growth of greenhouse gases,” but only “as the science justifies.” This is in sharp contrast to the heretofore proclamations of the immediate need to implement the Kyoto Protocol regardless of cost.
Even more striking is the failure of the G-8 joint statement to even mention the scientifically-dubious prospects of worsening weather conditions such as predictions of drought, increasing storm frequency, famine, and other “catastrophes” consistently predicted by global warming adherents. Instead, the statement emphasizes the promotion of “innovation, energy efficiency, conservation; [improving] policy, regulatory and financing frameworks; and [accelerating] deployment of cleaner technologies, particularly lower-emitting technologies.” This, incidentally, is precisely what President Bush emphasized when he removed the U.S. from the Kyoto Protocol in 2001 and focused our nation’s attention instead on other free-market approaches like the M2M initiative. It is not surprising that M2M fits perfectly within the G-8 Action Plan.
Another shift from the Kyoto Protocol by the G-8 is the need to stress adaptation technology. “Adaptation to the effects of climate change due to both natural and human factors is a high priority for all nations,” the statement reads.
Finally, the G-8 acknowledged that no climate policy would be successful if it does not include the rapidly growing nations of China and India. These nations are second and third in the world in terms of greenhouse gas emissions today and will soon take over as the number one emitters of greenhouse gases.
Efforts are already underway to include China, India and other nations in a more coherent climate change effort. M2M already includes India and more nations will likely join the agreement.
The magnitude of the geopolitical shift away from Kyoto did not come, however, until July 26th when the U.S. led a six-nation partnership of Pacific states in a new agreement on global warming. The U.S., Australia, China, India, South Korea and Japan comprise the group. Called the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, the six-nation plan emphasizes the need for increased access to affordable and reliable energy in the developing world, and flexibility in reaching the group’s environmental goals. The “vision statement” for the new initiative could be taken from the G-8 Action Plan.
The Partnership’s vision is to cooperate and share “existing and emerging cost-effective, cleaner technologies and practices.” These technologies include, but are not limited to: “energy efficiency, clean coal, integrated gasification combined cycle, liquefied natural gas, carbon capture and storage, combined heat and power, methane capture and use, civilian nuclear power, geothermal, rural/village energy systems, advanced transportation, building and home construction and operation, bio-energy, agriculture and forestry, hydropower, wind power, solar power, and other renewables.”
The emphasis, as it should be, appears to be on “cost-effective” solutions. M2M, of course, fits perfectly within this vision. Although the statement diplomatically states that the Partnership efforts runs in “parallel” with Kyoto, in fact it is a radical departure from Kyoto.
Many thought the Kyoto Protocol was dead several times in the past, only to have it resurrect itself like the fabled Phoenix. Although Kyoto is diplomatically included in the language of the G-8 Plan of Action and the Asia-Pacific Partnership, the approach differs radically, suggesting that Kyoto may finally wither on the vine. On the upside, it is refreshing and encouraging to see that positive, free-market alternatives, based on sound science, are actually making their way into the public policy arena — even at the international level.