Do you believe that the United States should participate in the Kyoto Protocol? What arguments most influenced your decision?


Do you believe that we will experience significant global warming during this century due to air pollution? In what way would the Kyoto Protocol impact your position on global warming?



The strengths and weaknesses of the Kyoto Protocol must be carefully assessed in designing future agreements to tackle climate change. The Kyoto Protocol’s main strength may lay in its emissions trading feature–a key for cost-effectiveness, environmental effectiveness, and equity. Its main weakness may lay in the incapacity of Kyoto-type targets to deal with the uncertainties surrounding climate change–especially on the side of abatement costs. A mere extension of the current protocol seems unlikely to effectively tackle climate change. A flat rejection of the structure it provides, however, would probably not offer better prospects. Agreements on policies and measures or “technology protocols” might be useful, but can hardly substitute for more comprehensive agreements that would provide clear price signals to economic agents. Carbon taxes would better deal with uncertain abatement costs, but may be more politically difficult at both domestic and international levels. A modified Kyoto structure might give the international community a better chance to achieve its ultimate objective, laid down in the United Framework Convention on Climate Change, of stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. It would keep the emissions trading framework but add to the Kyoto-style fixed and binding targets several options to better deal with uncertain costs, namely, price caps, indexed targets, and non-binding targets for developing countries. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]


Copyright of International Review for Environmental Strategies is the property of Institute for Global Environmental Strategies and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder’s express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use. This abstract may be abridged. No warranty is given about the accuracy of the copy. Users should refer to the original published version of the material for the full abstract. (Copyright applies to all Abstracts.)The 1999 Special Issue of The Energy Journal presents several articles that conclude the costs of the Kyoto Protocol would be very high for the U.S. if all the adjustments were domestic. However, a few studies conclude that the Kyoto target is achievable at a negligible cost and perhaps with a net benefit. This paper explains why a majority of studies conclude that the cost of reducing emissions is high while some studies conclude that the Kyoto target could be achieved at a low cost, if not for free. Most studies employ mainstream economic analysis to estimate the costs of achieving the Kyoto Protocol. In contrast, the “no cost” analyses use a unique methodology applied only to energy conservation and referred to here as the energy conservation paradigm. One conclusion is that the energy conservation paradigm is inconsistent with mainstream economics. The “no cost” conclusion used to support approval of the Kyoto Protocol is not supported by the basic principles of economics. The Climate Change Technology Initiative recommends tax credits to reduce carbon emissions. With the proposed tax credit of $1,100 per residential head pump, each tonne of carbon reduced from the more efficient heat pump would cost $510. With different input assumptions, higher and lower estimates are produced. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]


Copyright of Energy Journal is the property of International Association for Energy Economics, Inc. and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder’s express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use. This abstract may be abridged. No warranty is given about the accuracy of the copy. Users should refer to the original published version of the material for the full abstract. (Copyright applies to all Abstracts.)Why do our political leaders in Washington so often take a giant step forward in one area only to slip and lurch backward in another?

To its great credit, Congress is apparently heading toward enactment of the most significant campaign finance reform legislation in a generation. If the president signs the bill, as he should, the new ban on soft money won’t stop all of the big bucks sloshing through politics, but it will reduce the flow and put an end to our current mockery of existing laws. We owe a debt of gratitude to Sens. John McCain, Russell Feingold, and others for their courage and persistence.

Yet even as Washington moves forward in one area, it is in dangerous retreat in another: environmental protection. The stream of pronouncements and decisions flowing out of the Bush administration on a range of environmental issues from global warming to arsenic in drinking water to road building in the wilderness is not only disheartening but in the long run could darken prospects for all mankind.

The most serious decision by the administration was its announcement last week that it wants to blow up the 1997 Kyoto protocol, an agreement painstakingly negotiated by the United States and more than 100 other countries. That protocol builds on an earlier climate treaty reached in Rio in 1992. The Rio treaty, signed by President George Herbert Walker Bush and ratified by Congress, committed the United States to working with the world to reduce global warming, and it included commitments to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the main culprit. In signing the Kyoto protocol, America pledged to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions 7 percent below the 1990 levels over two decades.

Flawed treaty. President George W. Bush made it clear in the campaign that he didn’t like the Kyoto protocol. It is indeed a badly flawed treaty, as recognized by Democrats, too. The Senate voted 95-0 in 1997 that it would not approve the treaty, a vote so resounding that the Clinton-Gore administration never even sent it up for ratification.

But it was assumed among our allies in Europe and Asia that the United States, which produces 25 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide with only 4 percent of its population, would lead the way to a quick renegotiation of the existing Kyoto documents and not insist upon starting from scratch, a process that could take years. That’s why the administration’s announcement last week set off a small firestorm among our allies and infuriated environmental groups. Perhaps he didn’t intend it, but Bush seemed to be thumbing his nose at world opinion.

Major questions now arise as to whether the United States thinks it can unilaterally tear up treaties that its own government has agreed to in earlier years. President Bush justifies his environmental decisions by saying that nothing must hold us back from overcoming a “sputtering” economy and an “energy crisis.” He is right that we must take swift, decisive action on those fronts. An immediate, front-loaded tax cut is in order, and so is an aggressive plan to develop more energy supplies, including nuclear power. But those initiatives need not conflict with an equally serious effort to achieve dramatic breakthroughs in energy efficiency so we can conquer a far deadlier threat to our well-being. The administration is simply wrong to say that the economy and energy must trump the environment; we must pursue all three at the same time.

It was notable last week that when push came to shove in California on electricity rates, companies in Silicon Valley immediately found ways they could become more energy efficient. Cisco Systems announced it was cutting electricity usage by 10 percent over earlier reductions simply by using more energy-efficient equipment. Roche Pharmaceuticals is cutting energy usage by 20 percent by turning off some computers, lights, and labs during peak periods. Hewlett-Packard has set up additional “war rooms” to cut back its power consumption in the Bay Area.

The United States remains pre-eminently a country that can climb any mountain if the president summons us to greatness. Remember FDR as war approached? America was building just over 2,000 planes a year at the time. Roosevelt challenged us to build 50,000 a year so we could become an “arsenal of democracy.” Critics scoffed that it could never be done. By war’s end, Americans were producing close to 100,000 planes a year.

Can we become the environmental model of the world? You bet; but to get there, strong leaders must summon us to the mountaintop.t:

The United States declined to support the Kyoto Protocol, and there is no likelihood that China, India, Indonesia, Brazil, or Nigeria will fully participate in any greenhouse-gas regime for the next few decades. Of the many uncertainties surrounding the greenhouse gas debate, what is least uncertain is that climate change is real and likely to be serious. But ambiguity about this question should not delay essential research and development in nonfossil energy sources, energy conservation, and policies to exploit the most cost-effective ways to reduce emissions. The Kyoto Protocol’s exclusive focus on the short term neglected the crucial importance of expanding worldwide research and development of technologies to make severe reductions feasible later in the century. The US favors voluntary measures over mandatory ones, but is not clear whether these terms referred mainly to domestic or to international measures. The concept of emissions trading is popular, but initial quotas are negotiated to reflect what each nation can reasonably be expected to reduce. There is consensus that nations will not sacrifice in the interest of global objectives unless they are bound by a regime that can impose penalties. What is needed are financial contributions from the rich countries to an institution that would help finance energy-efficient and decarbonized technologies in the developing world. The greenhouse gas issue will persist through the 21st century and beyond. Even though the developed nations have not succeeded in an approach to the issue, it is still early.

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