TCS Daily


TCS COP 11 Coverage: More Than One Best Way

By Ronald Bailey - December 7, 2005 12:00 AM

MONTREAL -- A new consensus is emerging at the United Nations' Climate Change Conference in Montreal. Some participants are beginning to recognize that the Asia-Pacific Partnership for Clean Development and Climate Change (AP6) is at least part of the way forward in a global effort to deal with any potential harms from man-made global warming.

The AP6 was announced last summer and includes China, India, South Korea, Japan, Australia, and the United States. The goal of the AP6 is to address climate change by focusing on creating and deploying technologies that emit less greenhouse gas such as carbon dioxide. Dr. Shin Boo-nam, the deputy director general of South Korea's ministry of foreign affairs and trade explained, during a panel discussion organized by the International Council for Capital Formation, that the AP6 members aim to use technological innovation and cooperation to improve their energy security, reduce air pollution, and address climate change.

The goals of the AP6 appear to be aligned with the new proposals for combining economic development and climate policies being offered by various participants in the Montreal conference. For example, the environmental think tank the World Resources Institute issued a new study that focuses on how to boost the economic growth of poor countries while simultaneously helping them improve their energy efficiency.

The report, Growing in the Greenhouse: Policies and Measures for Sustainable Development while Protecting the Climate, offers a series of case studies in which fast growing countries like China and India are urged to adopt policies that encourage both economic growth and energy efficiency. The WRI calls this sustainable development policies and measures (SD-PAMs). The idea is that developmental paths are favored that result in significantly lower future greenhouse gas emissions.

For example, in China there are 12 cars or trucks for every 1000 people. In the U.S. the number is 800 per 1000 people. China's cities are growing rapidly and are building vast amounts of transportation infrastructure right now. In addition, China's leaders are worried about being at the mercy of insecure energy imports. China has the advantage of seeing what the results of 90 years of car-focused development in the U.S. and other western countries have been.

The WRI's Lee Schipper offered a case study in which the Chinese government could choose to adopt policies aimed at preventing gridlock in China's burgeoning cities and cut their oil imports. As outlined by Schipper, China's cities could choose to build more robust public transit systems rather than highways. Furthermore, China could apply oil saving technologies in the transit sector and charge Japanese-style prices for gasoline. According to Schipper, these measures would reduce the number of cars in China in 2020 from a projected 160 million to 130 million and cut oil imports by 1 million barrels per day. Such measures would also dramatically lower China's projected greenhouse gas emissions.

Similarly as India develops, its government leaders will be setting policies that affect how power will be eventually supplied to the 600 million of its citizens who are still without access to electricity. The type of power supplies India chooses will have a big impact on how much greenhouse gas it emits in the future and how much it will rely on outside sources of energy. Interestingly, the number of Chinese without access to electricity has dropped from 800 million in the mid-1980s to 225 million today. Rob Bradley from the WRI noted that small hydroelectric power now supplies electricity to 300 million Chinese.

The SD-PAM strategy sounds an awful lot like the development and climate policy goals of the AP6 of which China and India are already participating members. And like the AP6 initiative, SD-PAMs are intended to complement other greenhouse gas control efforts such as the emissions restrictions imposed on the parties to the Kyoto Protocol.

At a press conference, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change discussed its report, Climate Dialogue at Pocantico, calling for a more flexible international framework allowing countries to take on different types of climate commitments. The report recognizes that most developing countries see increased energy use as essential for their economic growth and will not join the current cap-and-trade system for carbon control embodied in the Kyoto Protocol. In order to get developing countries involved in addressing global warming, Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center, called for the launching of a high level dialogue outside the current climate negotiations. As envisioned by the Pew Center's report, this new dialogue would involve the 25 countries that account for 83 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, 71 percent of the world's population and 86 percent of the world's GDP. The Pew Center's Eliot Diringer proposed that like-minded countries could form agreements along different tracks that would address potential climate change.

It turns out that the AP6 is already a jumpstart on the sort of parallel process being proposed by Pew. The AP6 partners constitute 45 percent of the world's population, account for 49 percent of the world's economy, consume 48 percent of the world's energy, and produce 48 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. And once the AP6 partners adopt a charter and finalize a work program at the ministerial meeting next month, Dr. Shin noted that the founding countries will consider ways to include other interested countries.

When asked about the AP6 partnership, Claussen said that it was interesting and suggested that it could be part of what the Pew Center is proposing. Diringer added that the AP6 has some potential, but that his colleagues are waiting to see what comes out the ministerial meeting in January.

In any case, it is clear that there is a growing recognition at the Montreal Climate Change Conference that the Kyoto Protocol is not the only answer to handling the potential problems caused by man-made global warming.

Ronald Bailey is Reason's science correspondent. His book Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution is now available from Prometheus Books. His email is rbailey@reason.com.

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