Russia, Japan, and Canada announced at a late-May G8 summit they would not participate in an international treaty following up the Kyoto Protocol with new carbon dioxide cuts. In doing so, they joined the United States, which reiterated it would remain outside any such treaty.
Kyoto’s Poor Results
Although most developed nations joined the Kyoto Protocol, which required participating developed nation to cut greenhouse gas emissions an average of 7 percent below their 1990 levels by 2012, few nations are on track to reach their goals. Those that do will have done so largely because of the recent global economic decline.
Emissions closely track economic output, and before the recent recession most developed nations were failing to meet their Kyoto commitments.
The pledges to cut emissions made in Kyoto expire at the end of next year, and meetings to expand and extend the cuts held in Copenhagen in 2009 and in Cancun in 2010 failed to make progress toward a follow-up agreement.
Now the leaders of Russian, Japan, and Canada confirmed they would not join a new Kyoto-style agreement.
Largest Emitter Exempt
Their main complaint echoes a charge the United States has leveled for years. Developing nations, including China, the world’s leading emitter of carbon dioxide, were not required to make emissions cuts under Kyoto. As a result, nations that committed to cuts were put at a competitive disadvantage in relation to fast-growing developing countries, yet their collective sacrifices would produce no gains in terms of the environment in general or combating anthropogenic warming in particular.
President Barack Obama confirmed at the G-8 summit that the United States would not be joining an updated Kyoto Protocol. Although President Clinton signed the original Kyoto agreement, neither he nor Presidents Bush or Obama ever submitted it to the Senate for ratification. The U.S. Senate had previously gone on record with unanimous passage of the 1997 Byrd-Hagel Resolution rejecting any climate change agreement that would harm the U.S. economy or did not include similar commitments by developing nations.
Gerry Angevine, senior economist at the Global Resource Center of the Canadian-based Fraser Institute, said, “The fact that developing countries, especially China, were not to be bound by emissions cuts gave the Canadian government a great political reason for not joining a post-Kyoto treaty.”
However, Angevine said, “the real reason, I think, that Canada is opting out is economic. Canada can’t afford to be part of a treaty forcing energy reductions that the U.S. is not a part of. It would put our industries at too much of a competitive disadvantage.
“Absent Canada, the U.S., Russia, or Japan, it will be much more difficult to get a binding post-Kyoto greenhouse gas agreement,” Angevine noted.
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., ([email protected]) is a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis.