Saturday, July 30, 2005

Climate dilemmas

Dispute continues around the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, with environmentalists calling it toothless because of its lack of timetables and targets

The way it was announced - apparently a suprise to the international community - certainly contrasts with the painstaking multilateral approach that has surrounded Kyoto and the G8.

Things to consider:

  • the parternship includes the world's four largest coal producers, if not the largest (Australia, China, India and the United States). Three of these countries are also its largest consumers and likely to burn coal come hell or highwater so technology to deal with the consequences is needed.
  • Two members of the partnership - Japan and South Korea - are signatories to the Kyoto Protocol. It's true that Korea is "non-Annex I state" which means it has not undertaken to meet specific targets; but Japan does have targets to meet (albeit inadequate to the challenge - but then so is almost everything so far), and as the world's second largest economy by some distance it carries some weight that, with an additional finger on the scale from S Korea, may help to draw the "techno-optimist" and "timetables-and-targets" camps together.
  • For a US administration characterised by unilateralism and realpolitik (another notable example in recent days being the nuclear deal with India), this may be as good as it gets. The partnership may facilitate technical progress - and US companies such as GE (the country's largest by market capitalisation) will lap up the opportunities (including nuclear ones) and thereby afford some space for those working towards making targets and timetables a little bit more achievable (e.g. beyond 2012).


Caspar Henderson said...

Six-country pact on clean energy 'not meant to undermine Kyoto'

Paul Brown, environment correspondent
Friday July 29, 2005
The Guardian

A US-led, six-nation pact to develop clean energy technologies and combat global warming was launched yesterday with its members denying it was designed to undermine the Kyoto protocol.

The new agreement, announced by the US deputy secretary of state, Robert Zoellick, at an Asia-Pacific security forum in Laos, was to provide practical solutions to excess carbon emissions, he said.
The six club members - China, Australia, Japan, India, the US and South Korea - will cooperate on the development, transfer and sale of clean technologies, to promote the efficient use of fuels.

Technology that enables coal to be burned more efficiently and captures carbon dioxide before it reaches the atmosphere is top of the agenda. The US, Australia and China are all big coal users and exporters.

Alongside wind, solar, hydropower and geothermal power sources, new nuclear power facilities get equal billing, which will further dismay the environmental lobby.

There are no targets and timetables for the delivery of any of the pledges and no carbon dioxide reduction targets. There is a hope that other nations will join the new club, which represents 45% of the world's population and nearly half of its energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. The US alone accounts for 25% of the world's emissions.

Japan, which has a binding 6% greenhouse gas reduction target under the Kyoto protocol, and China and India all emphasised yesterday their continued commitment to the treaty. A Chinese foreign ministry statement said the new pact complemented the Kyoto treaty and did not replace it.

Talks on the pact have been going on in secret for 12 months but it was only at the last minute that Japan was approached and decided to join. Suspicion of US motives was fuelled by the fact that the EU and Tony Blair were not informed of the plan, even though climate change was a big item on the agenda of last month's G8 meeting.

Across the world, reaction to the new pact from governments, UN bodies and environment groups, included the need to preserve and also strengthen the legally binding emission reduction targets in the Kyoto protocol.

While many welcomed the pact for bringing the US into a form of international action to combat climate change, others were suspicious of White House motives.
The European commission environment spokeswoman, Barbara Helfferich, echoed a statement from the British government, reported in yesterday's Guardian, which welcomed the agreement as "underlining our growing awareness of the seriousness of climate change and the need to address it" without seeking to undermine the Kyoto agreement.

The feelings of the environmental movement were summed up by Philip Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust, in Washington: "Given the president's track record on global warming, this is probably a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing. There are no agreements, actions or timetables for accomplishing anything.

"There may be a more sinister side to this effort. It is possible that the Bush administration is organising a group of nations to try to block a new set of emissions reduction targets which will begin to be negotiated in Montreal in November. Its principal partner in this initiative, Australia, is a major coal exporter and [it] also backed out of the Kyoto protocol.

"The EU, with Britain's Tony Blair as its current president, is committed to achieving new targets, and this may be an effort to outflank them."

Caspar Henderson said...

What they said about ...

... the new climate change pact

Ian Watson
Saturday July 30, 2005
The Guardian

A non-binding agreement between the United States, Japan, Australia, China, India and South Korea to develop clean energy technologies met with criticism that "it could be a ploy to undo the Kyoto pact" (Los Angeles Times). The deal, initiated by the US, was the result of year-long negotiations and will "build on existing bilateral agreements of technology sharing to control emissions, but will not set mandatory targets", explained the New York Times.

Where the Wall Street Journal saw in the pact "another nail in the coffin" of Kyoto, the South China Morning Post hoped that it would "complement rather than bypass the Kyoto protocol". The treaty "does have the potential to make a difference", it believed, because "it includes China and India - developing countries not bound by the Kyoto targets".

The Independent contrasted the "belt-tightening" of Kyoto and the "technological fixes" of the new pact. "If new technology can do the job instead, without forcing people to drive their cars less ... hey presto, the problem is solved," it mused. But it wasn't holding its breath. The new agreement was "long on vision but short on detail ... The amount of CO2 reduction [the treaty] provides for any given country will be simply what that country's politicians feel comfortable with - not what climate stability demands."

Maybe so, but it was still a "sign of limited progress", said the Times. It showed that the US and Australia, neither of whom ratified the Kyoto protocol, had "accepted the reality of global warming as a concern". And it created "another useful link with China and India, which have ratified Kyoto, but whose energy needs pose challenges for the future which go far beyond the current scope of the protocol".

The Australian welcomed the new pact. "The political reality of Kyoto is that it was a power grab by the nations of old Europe - unrepentant polluters all - against the high-growth economies of the Asia-Pacific," it argued. "Kyoto ... would punish Australia as the world's highest per capita greenhouse source - an accident of our low population and huge resource sector - despite the fact we create only 1.4% of global emissions."