How U.N. Climate Change Negotiations Threaten Economic Growth

Over the weekend, the 18th Conference of the Parties (COP-18) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) sputtered to its conclusion in Doha, Qatar. The delegates did agree to meet again next year to discuss the adoption of some kind of legally binding agreement to ration carbon by 2015. Otherwise, on the face of it, nothing much concrete was accomplished in Doha, but the process itself poses the danger that policymakers will, step-by-inadvertent-step, adopt policies deleterious to the future prosperity of humanity.

The first big item on the Doha agenda was keeping the Kyoto Protocol on some sort of life support. Adopted in 1997, the Kyoto Protocol required 35 rich countries to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by about 5.2 percent below what they emitted in back in 1990. The original Kyoto Protocol would have obliged the U.S. to cut its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 7 percent below its 1990 levels. However, the U.S. never ratified the treaty and now Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and Russia have pulled out.

At Doha, in what amounts to a mostly symbolic gesture, only the European Union, Australia, Ukraine, Switzerland, and Norway agreed to remain in the treaty that, in any case, covers only 15 percent of the world’s GHG emissions. And instead of binding commitments, each country gets to pick its own emissions targets for 2020. The countries that remain in the rump Kyoto Protocol promised to let the U.N. know what their new emissions reduction commitments (if any) will be next year. As noted, a largely symbolic act.

At the Doha climate change conference, the U.S. reiterated the pledge that President Barack Obama made at the Copenhagen climate change conference in 2009 to cut U.S. greenhouse emissions by 2020 to 17 percent below their 2005 levels. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, net U.S. GHG emissions amounted to 6,118 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent that year. This means that the Obama administration’s goal is to reduce GHG emissions from the U.S. to below 5,077 gigatons in 2020.

Earlier this year, the Energy Information Administration reported that energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide had fallen to 1,340 gigatons in the first quarter, back to its level in 1992. The drop was the result of switching from coal to less carbon intensive natural gas to produce electricity, as well as a 15 percent drop in highway miles travelled by Americans as a result of the Great Recession.

Read more at By Ronald Bailey.


  1. John Stewart says:

    Let's face it, this is more about party time than reality. The big issue at these cookouts is; Who's bringing the caviar?

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