Kyoto Proving Unworkable

Published August 1, 2004

Recent developments in Japan, Russia, and Canada suggest the international Kyoto Protocol is doomed to failure … with or without U.S. participation.

In Japan and Canada, both of which came very close to rejecting the treaty, meeting emission reduction targets is proving extremely difficult. Canadian conservatives are pledging to pull the nation out of Kyoto if they attain victory in future national elections. In Russia, government officials continue to publicly deride the lack of scientific and economic justification for the treaty.

Japanese Emissions Still Rising

Japan will have a difficult time meeting its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol. As the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun reported on May 17, “According to an estimate by the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, the amount of carbon dioxide emissions produced as a result of Japan’s consumption of energy in fiscal 2010 will increase by 5 percent over fiscal 1990 levels, despite anticipated progress in the nation’s campaign against global warming.”

The Shimbun continued, “According to the latest report, Japan’s energy demand will reach its peak in fiscal 2021, after which it will decline. CO2 emissions are predicted to begin decreasing in the late 2010s. The report attributes all this to a projected reduction in the nation’s population and technological and other advancements in industry.

“But in fiscal 2010, the CO2 figure is projected to still be rising, meaning that it will exceed the 6 percent reduction promised by Japan under the Kyoto Protocol. The projections state that the amount of CO2 emissions from the civilian and transportation sectors will increase 20 percent from fiscal 1990 levels, canceling out the predicted 7 percent reduction in CO2 emissions from the industrial sector.”

The Japanese government reported in May 2004 that greenhouse gas emissions for fiscal 2002 were 7.3 percent higher than the 1990 level.

Environment Minister Yuriko Koike said the Japanese government will now have to “come up with very drastic measures” in order to meet Japan’s Kyoto Protocol target of cutting emissions to 6 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12.

Government figures indicate household and office emissions have increased, while carbon dioxide emissions from the industrial sector have declined slightly. The decline in industrial sector emissions, reported by Kimiko Hirata of the Kiko Network, was largely the result of a stagnant economy. Hirata said the government may need to track emissions data for businesses and mandate reductions as they see necessary. Doing so would curtail economic production by restricting the amount of energy that companies expend.

Russian Scholars Question Kyoto Science

On May 14, shortly before President Vladimir Putin announced Russia still had not made up its mind regarding participation in Kyoto, the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) issued a report that disputed the scientific basis of the Kyoto Protocol and concluded the treaty would be economically harmful to Russia. The report’s summary of scientific opinion noted the “absence of scientific substantiation of the Kyoto Protocol and its low effectiveness for reducing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, as is envisaged by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.” The report stated, “The requirements of the Kyoto Protocol are of a discriminatory character, and its mechanisms involve economic risks for Russia.”

Yuri Izrael, the distinguished climatologist who authored the summary, said bluntly, “The protocol is ineffective for attaining the goal set by it–the stabilization of the ecological situation and the world economy.”

Professor Oleg Sorokhtin of the RAS’s Institute of Oceanography was quoted by the Russian news agency TASS as saying, “The Kyoto Protocol is not needed at all, as even considerable emissions of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have almost no effect on the Earth’s temperature but contribute to agricultural productivity and to the restoration of forest resources.”

Canadian Conservatives Promise to Scrap Kyoto

Canada could be the next country to put national interest above rhetoric in repudiating the Kyoto Protocol. The leader of the Conservative Party, Stephen Harper, told the Canadian press on June 9 that he would scrap implementation of the Kyoto procedures and instead introduce a bill aimed at reducing air pollution by 2010. Harper said, “Kyoto is never going to be passed, and I think we’d be better to spend our time on realistic pollution control measures.”

The measures Harper would introduce instead would focus on air pollutants, rather than on carbon dioxide, but few details have been offered.

Canadian Kyoto opponents have been buoyed by a revival of Canada’s Conservative Party. In Canada’s June 28 elections, Conservatives rendered the ruling Liberal Party a minority party in the Canadian Parliament for the first time in 25 years.

By aligning itself with third parties, Labor still holds power in Canada, but the erosion in its national support continues. Conservatives predict they will surpass Labor in the next national elections.

Iain Murray is a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). Myron Ebell oversees all global warming and international environmental work at CEI. Their email address are [email protected] and [email protected].

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