Kicking the Can on Climate Change

Surprise! Nations agree to keep talking about emission reductions for another year.

The new climate change agreement arduously reached in December at the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP-17) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was widely hailed as a “historic breakthrough.” The Durban Platform for Enhanced Action commits all countries for the first time to cutting their greenhouse gas emissions, chiefly carbon dioxide. 

To achieve this goal the signatories have agreed to negotiate “a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force” by 2015. Whatever deal is reached then will have five years to be ratified so that it can come into force by 2020. On its face, this appears to be a significant step in climate change diplomacy. In reality, it’s not.

First a bit of history. Under the Kyoto Protocol of 1997, only industrialized countries were required to cut their emissions, by an average of 5 percent below the levels they emitted in 1990. Meanwhile, developing countries such as China, India, and Brazil could continue to emit carbon dioxide by burning coal, gas, and oil to produce the energy needed to fuel their economic growth and reduce poverty.

President Bill Clinton never submitted the Kyoto Protocol to the United States Senate, which had passed a resolution, by a vote of 95 to 0, declaring that it would not ratify any treaty that did not cover emissions from competitors like China. On this point American climate diplomacy has never wavered, not even under Barack Obama’s administration. 

In fact, the 2009 climate conference in Copenhagen fell apart precisely because the Obama administration refused to agree to any new treaty governing greenhouse gas emissions that did not impose requirements on the big emerging economies, whose emissions are skyrocketing. Obama knew that trying to get such a treaty ratified back home was a political nonstarter. China refused to make the commitment, so the Copenhagen conference collapsed.

As a face-saving measure, both developed and developing countries made nonbinding pledges with regard to their greenhouse gas emissions. For example, the U.S. set the goal of cutting its greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent below the levels emitted in 2005, and China offered to reduce its carbon intensity (the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per dollar of GDP) by 40 percent to 45 percent from its 2000 level by 2020. Washington’s 17 percent emission cut would amount to a reduction of about 4 percent below 1990 levels. Under the Kyoto Protocol the U.S. was supposed to have reduced its emissions by 7 percent below its 1990 level by 2012.

The Copenhagen Accord process was made official at the 2010 Cancun climate change conference, where countries ultimately made promises pertaining to 85 percent of global emissions. By contrast, the Kyoto Protocol applied to around 15 percent of global emissions. The Obama administration has been trying to reach its emission goal by imposing higher vehicle fuel efficiency standards and requiring the abatement of carbon dioxide emitted by power plants.

During the recent negotiations in Durban, U.S. chief climate change envoy Todd Stern made it clear at press briefings that the American position remained steadfast on the point that “legal parity” must apply to big emerging economies under any new greenhouse gas treaty. That is, China, India, and Brazil would have to cut their emissions in the same way that industrialized countries would be required to do. Until that happened, the U.S. would stick with the voluntary process set up in Cancun for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Meanwhile, the world’s only legally binding climate treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, has been faltering. Three signatories—Canada, Russia, and Japan—had all declared before the Durban conference that they were not going to make further emission-reduction commitments. The European Union’s flawed market for carbon emission permits, called the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), was at risk of collapsing unless the Kyoto Protocol’s reduction commitments were renewed and increased. 

At Durban the E.U. demanded that all countries, especially developing countries, agree to a negotiations “roadmap” that by 2015 would lead to some kind of global emission reduction scheme binding both developed and developing countries and coming into force by 2020. Otherwise, the E.U. would essentially kill off the Kyoto Protocol by not making additional reduction commitments. 

After grueling hours of late-night negotiations, the Durban Platform was adopted, and the European “roadmap” was launched. The Europeans were keen to agree on language endorsing the phrase “a protocol or other legal instrument” as the ultimate goal of the “roadmap.” That phrase had been used in the 1995 Berlin Mandate, under which countries agreed to accept a legally binding treaty in the future requiring them to cut their greenhouse gas emissions. The Berlin Mandate led to the Kyoto Protocol in 1997.

The U.S. ended up supporting the E.U. in Durban, and why not? The Durban Platform appears to conform to the central goal of American climate change diplomacy, i.e., forcing the big emerging economies to make legally binding commitments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. But does the new agreement actually do that?

At Durban, China and India managed to water down the Berlin Mandate terminology to include the phrase “or an agreed outcome with legal force.” The Chinese and Indians apparently believe that whatever climate negotiations achieve by 2015, the result will still mean fewer obligations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions than developed countries.

After the Durban conference adopted its “roadmap,” the European Union agreed to keep a rump version of the Kyoto Protocol alive by imposing further greenhouse gas emission reductions on its taxpayers through 2017. As a side note, a November report by the Swiss bank UBS found that implementing Europe’s carbon market under the Kyoto Protocol has resulted in almost zero low-carbon innovations in energy production while imposing about $280 billion in additional costs on European consumers.

Looking toward 2015, what is likely to happen? If global average temperatures begin rising steeply between now and then (after a pause of more than a decade), or if weather-related disasters increase dramatically, that might lend impetus to some kind of binding emission reductions. Assuming that no compelling global warming signals emerge, the new roadmap is supposed to follow a path similar to the one laid out in 1995.

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  • ||

    Frist! :D

  • ||

    Seriously, nice article Ron. Let them talk and keep talking, forever. In this case, talking is far superior to action.

  • Bill||

    The good news is that there are lots of people being paid to help them keep talking.

  • ||

    That is indeed good news. Just imagine the kind of harm these people could do if they actually worked on an issue that mattered.

  • ||

    Just imagine the kind of harm these people could do if they actually worked on an issue that mattered.

    There, fixed it.

  • rectal||

    Fisting my ass hole

  • Ouch||

    Well that's just rude.

  • Stretch Armstrong||

    Yeah, me too.

  • OK||

    Yeah, yeah, same-ole same-ole.
    But did you know...there's going to be a wedding!

  • PL||

    Pretty rude to insult people who are getting married.

  • Offended Prude||

    Marriage is a sacrament. A holy union. Between a man and a woman. Or in this case...

    Never mind. Too cruel.

  • Muad Dib||

    A moratorium on brains will be the topic at the eighteenth COP.

  • panic NOW||

    2020 will be way too late! The oceans will expand and the coral will die! The frogs with mutate and the birds won't fly! Typhoons and earthquakes and volcanoes and floods! Drowned and burned and buried in muds! More unending taxes and crises and FUDS! Makeitstop! Makeitstop! Makeitstop!

  • mofo||

    "As a side note, a November report by the Swiss bank UBS found that implementing Europe’s carbon market under the Kyoto Protocol has resulted in almost zero low-carbon innovations in energy production while imposing about $280 billion in additional costs on European consumers."

    Can a brotha get a link to that report?

  • ||

    Ron, I think you're wrong about this:

    The Durban Platform for Enhanced Action commits all countries for the first time to cutting their greenhouse gas emissions, chiefly carbon dioxide.

    All Durban did was commit everyone to keep talking.

    To achieve this goal the signatories have agreed to negotiate “a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force” by 2015.

    Agreeing to negotiate cuts to CO2, and being committed to cutting CO2, are not the same thing at all. Which I think you acknowledge later in the article, but the setup is all wrong.

  • Old Mexican||

    I'll kick Climate Change's can any day of the week, biatch!

  • Old Mexican||

    I'm sorry, I was staring at that snorgtees girl - were you saying something, Ron?

  • king leer||

    The brunette with the rack? Yeah, she's pretty distracting.

  • ||

    according to my Do Not Track Plus firefox addon this page has 11 sites tracking me.

    I don't care about being tracked...but it substantially slows my computer and browser if i do not block them.

    so no snorgtees girl for me =(

  • Colonel_Angus||

    What is the metaphorical can being kicked here? That implies that some decision is being put off, and that some consequence will result. This issue has absolutely no consequence if nothing is done in perpetuity.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Colonel_Angus,

    This issue has absolutely no consequence if nothing is done in perpetuity.


    The premise is that something must be done. The reality is that nothing has to be done. So kicking the can forward, while an exercise in futility, actually helps the environment and human beings by keeping the milenarists occupied in something until the Second Coming of the Great Prophet Zarquon.

    If we could ship them all in the third space ark, we would've done it already...

  • ||

    That is Ron Bailey for you, he supports tax and trade and you picked up on his pro-world government bias.

  • Old Mexican||

    Meanwhile, the world’s only legally binding climate treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, has been faltering.


    Yeah, "legally binding" agreements between criminal enterprises (what some call with a very sick sense of humor "governments"). That works.

  • Jake Westbrook||

    No innovation you say? More costs to CONSUMERS?

    No surprise. They are using the biggest scam in history (man-made climate change) to suck us all dry. The globalists will empty the world's pocketbooks right into their vaults and proclaim they helped, and it's better for everyone that way. People today are so ignorant, they could be made like the Jews in the Holocaust, but begging to get on the trains!

  • Tonio||

    Liberals are always clamoring to get on the train.

  • Jake Westbrook||

    *Progressives masquerading as liberals. If you took a liberal Democrat from the 80's and froze him, then brought him to the present, he would wonder why our politicians haven't swung yet.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Actually I'd argue that the biggest scam of all time is the notion that "taxes are what we pay for civilization." AGW is nothing but a subset of that.

  • Jake Westbrook||

    I know, taxes are patriotic and without them we'd all be dead. If you've driven one mile on a public road you know why government and taxes are good!

    Pfft, if we woke up tomorrow and the whole damned public sector minus the military was gone nobody would spontaneously combust. Private industry would take over and everything would run more smoothly.

  • Tonio||

    Ron, are you getting the sense that the principals (governments) know that CAGW has been overblown and are playing for time until the catastrophists collapse?

  • ||

    If global average temperatures begin rising steeply between now and then (after a pause of more than a decade)

    Science H. Logic, Ron did you even read this? There isn't any reason for this stupidity other than government control over people but maybe, just maybe, there will be something real to worry about in the future and this will be able to address it?!

    What about a multi billion dollar UN plan to defend against alien invasion "if" they attempt to enslave/eat us?

  • Tonio||

    What about a multi billion dollar UN plan to defend against alien invasion "if" they attempt to enslave/eat us?

    Well, I think we need to have the capability to do something about asteroids, etc, which are much more of an existential threat than CAGW. Asteroid defense could also double as invasion defense if the defense mechanism was destruction. I don't trust the UN to do this, or anything else.

  • Mensan||

  • ||

    The Carbon Clowns have really been doubling-down lately; even after one of their Chief Clowns was caught with his pants down last week they've been on a tear.

    First was piece yesterday in the Guardian about how 'climate change' - that term so amorphous it only really means blaming you for it - would bring on the volcanoes and earthquakes. Volcanoes and fucking earthquakes.

    Then a pseudo opinion piece in LA Times, but a book review, Super Clown Michael Mann has a new book coming out. Making him out like a brave sapper in the tunnel-rat wars of climate advocacy.

    I'm really starting to get a visceral dislike for the Carbon Clowns...they're SO STUPID.

  • KDN||

    Doesn't a rather intense cooling always follow a period of heavy vulcanism? If so, and if our actions increase the likelihood of vulcanism, then shouldn't this make us less alarmist about carbon emission affecting the climate?

  • king leer||

    Volcanoes and fucking earthquakes.

    pikers

  • ||

    He wasn't actually much of a chief - more of a sycophant.

  • Old Mexican||

    If global average temperatures begin rising steeply between now and then (after a pause of more than a decade), or if weather-related disasters increase dramatically, that might lend impetus to some kind of binding emission reductions.


    Or lend impetus to the taking of virgins into the Volcano God to appease him.

    The beauty of post hoc reasoning.

  • longtime unemployed guy||

    "The beauty of post hoc reasoning."

    The only reasoning some of us have left.

  • ||

    Why is someone who thinks government can plan the economy in order to optimize the climate of the world writing for a libertarian website? Is the Daily Kos not hiring?

  • king leer||

    Not really a fair characterisation of Bailey. Lurk moar.

  • Realist||

    Surprise! Nations agree to keep talking about emission reductions for another year."
    They just aren't quite as stupid as you.....close but no cirar.
    Bailey you should stick with something you know a little about....religion.

  • Realist||

    Should read...close but no cigar.

  • ||

    "Kicking the Can on Climate Change" is a biased title implying that our dear leaders need to quit kickign the can and implement global taxation now....

    If you don't want to sound like a committed tax and trader then try a title like this: "Scam artists agree to keep trying"

  • ||

    I see it as more - our dear leaders need to quit kicking the can and pick it up and throw the fucking thing away.

  • Realist||

    "If you don't want to sound like a committed tax and trader then try a title like this: "Scam artists agree to keep trying"
    Bailey doesn't care, he is convinced the "science is settled"
    He knows nothing of substance about science.

  • Jake Westbrook||

    Seriously. If you lay it out in simple terms it sounds like a bigger scam than those emails telling you how to get the inheritance of a dying foreign prince. "The earth is hot because of YOU, science contradicting reality says so, SCIENCE PEOPLE! SCIENCE! In order to, uhh, stop this heat we need to tax everyone for doing most everything. That oughta do it, don't worry how, but it'll do it. No questions, you're an ignorant earth-hating human extinctionist if you question us!

  • prtoefeed||

    The Durban Platform for Enhanced Action commits all countries for the first time to cutting their greenhouse gas emissions, chiefly carbon dioxide. To achieve this goal the signatories have agreed to negotiate “a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force” by 2015. Whatever deal is reached then will have five years to be ratified so that it can come into force by 2020.

    Shorter column, R. Bailey:

    So a non-legally-binding, non-ratified treaty proposes to try to, at a future date, negotiate unspecified language with the goal, backed by no sanctions for non-success, to have this unwritten language ratified at a far distant date?

    Wow, that has TEETH!

    /sarcasm

  • ||

    So a non-legally-binding, non-ratified treaty proposes to try to, at a future date, negotiate unspecified language with the goal, backed by no sanctions for non-success, to have this unwritten language ratified at a far distant date?

    Kind of sounds like the governments plan to reduce the debt.

  • ||

    That makes a lot of sense dude< I mean like wow.
    www.Gone-Anon.tk

  • Sam Grove||

    Want to have some real fun?
    Then take on commenters at LA Times article/book review on Michael Mann's new book:
    http://opinion.latimes.com/opi.....imate.html

  • ||

    So little fun when they make it so easy.

  • Mike||

    Not quoting exactly, but European customers got zero carbon benefits at a cost of $280 billion. Where did that $280 billion go? Who benefited? Anyone care to follow the money?

  • ||

    All those solar-panels in bummer-cloudy Germany by the North Sea cost scratch. Ditto for idle windmills - thousands of them at $millions$ a pop. I'm sure they've got their Solyndras laying around.

    You see that new BMW all-electric they'll build? Billions to develop, I'm sure with state funds. The Quandt clan controls BMW, they've been good sucking money out the Germans since Old Man Quandt called Goebbels Daddy-in-Law.

    Then you've got all the grease in those wheezing gears making the whole corruption go. Ten years of that for major economic power like Germany alone I can see getting to quarter-trillion.

  • ||

    classmate's mother brought home $18499 a month ago. she makes money on the laptop and got a $524600 home. All she did was get fortunate and put to work the clues made clear on this site Nuttyrich DOTcom

  • ||

    recall that the major component of the "greenhouse effect" is water vaporsignificantly more than 90% of the effect. Computer models that show warming with additional carbon dioxide also show reduced clouds in the day and increased clouds at night; the warming is NOT a direct effect of an increased "greenhouse effect" from carbon dioxide.

  • ||

    This is a very important point. If serious global warming happens it has to be that the H2O content of the atmosphere is boosted by the extra CO2.

    An experiment at Cern shows why such an effect is muted and limited by extra cloud formation caused by cosmic rays. The AGW croud needs to address this or go home.

  • ||

    Even if all the AGW models and predictions were true, you're still going to have a hard time selling me the proposition that I should hand over my hard earned money to fix it. If indeed it could be fixed. The collectivist motto is that we're all in this together. Like hell, I say! I'm in it for me and mine. You be there for you and yours. It's not my job to have my wealth confiscated to fix other people's problems. And hey, if the planet is warming, it just means milder winters and better crops for the rest of us.

  • دردشه عراقية||

    Thanks

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