TCS Daily

Newspeak in Montreal

By Hans H.J. Labohm - December 15, 2005 12:00 AM

"I am proud of the outcome of the Montreal Conference. Montreal is a watershed in the fight against climate change. More than 180 countries accepted sometimes difficult compromises to launch a stronger and forward-looking global effort to fight climate change. This inspiring collaboration and readiness to accommodate each other's concerns is in line with the gravity of the threat and the need for all nations to close ranks and tackle climate change together.

"Europe has led, and will continue to lead, the endeavor to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Its cohesion and collective force is remarkable. We are set to meet our reduction target for 2008-2012. The EU will continue to take the initiative in drawing more countries into the process launched in Montreal. This is just the end of the beginning."

-- "Climate change: successful conclusion of UN Conference in Montreal", statement by Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas, Montreal/Brussels, 10 December 2005

Actually, Stavros Dimas' perception of what had happened in Montreal is diametrically opposed to what people could read in the newspapers, even in ones biased in favor of Kyoto. It is sort of like claiming victory after having lost the war. True, Montreal was a watershed, but not so much of the kind which has been suggested by the EU's environment commissioner. Rather, Montreal was a disaster for the pro-Kyotists as well Europe's "leading role" in climate policies.

There was no support for a follow-up, beyond 2012, of the Kyoto approach favored by Europe, which is one of binding caps on carbon dioxide emissions in conjunction with tradable emission rights. As for "inspiring collaboration" there was a clear split between a minority that supported the rigid (European) approach and a majority in favor of a more flexible one.

As far as Europe's attempts to take the initiative in drawing more countries into the process launched in Montreal, it seems more likely that the countries that matter will favor the more flexible American approach, circumventing the UN and leaving Europe empty-handed by the wayside. Six countries, which are responsible for more than half the world's greenhouse gas emissions, have formed the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development: the U.S., Australia, Japan, China, India and South Korea. Its aim is to reduce emissions, not as a primary goal, but as a by-product of efforts to achieve development and poverty eradication, which the group acknowledges to be urgent and overriding goals internationally.

And is Europe's cohesion and collective force indeed so remarkable, as Dimas claims? Italy, which has subscribed to the first round of the Kyoto treaty, has declared that it will drop out when this round expires in 2012. If this is the case, Russia, which joined Kyoto because the EU wanted it as a precondition for its support of Russia's membership of the World Trade Organization (WTO), will have a perfect pretext to back out as well. In the meantime it will have been able to cash billions of euro for the sale of emission rights, at the expense of western energy consumers and taxpayers. However, this will in no way affect Russia's real emissions, because it still has a comfortable margin before it will reach its emission ceiling. Could that perhaps be the reason that Russia has lately been so conspicuously silent about climate change?

Europe's CO2 emissions, which must be reduced by some 5 percent in 2012 compared to the base level in 1990 (100), have gone up instead, attaining 103.4 by 2004. It is true, however, that total greenhouse gas emissions have come down somewhat to 98.3 in 2004. But from 2000 onwards both CO2 and total greenhouse gas emissions seem to be on a rising path again. How this can be squared with Dimas' statement that Europe is set to meet its reduction target for 2008-2012, remains puzzling. It can't be disinformation, can it? Newspeak perhaps?

All in all, seen from the perspective of the proponents of Kyoto the outcome of the Montreal conference can only be qualified as "ungood". It is funny that Commissioner Dimas did not notice it. As he stated: "This is just the end of the beginning." Of what, actually? For Kyoto it is rather the beginning of the end. Period.

1 Comment

This is just a prelude. When the climate begins to swing the other way - and we say 'See, Natural variability was the cause after all.' - they'll say 'No. Keyoto worked! Imagine what else we could fix with more elite bureaucratic control'.

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