Monday, May 01, 2006

Kyoto and how we got here (II)

The Conservative gov't in Canada will announce a new budget tomorrow (read here). It is expected to cancel the $10 billion that the previous goverment allocated to implementing the Kyoto Protocol. In other words, RIP Canada's effort to abide by Kyoto.

In an earlier post, I began to explain how climate policy in North America got to this point. I'll fill in the rest of the story throughout this week.

Both the US and Canada are original signatories to the Kyoto Protocol, but the US government under President Bush chose not to ratify. Keep in mind, it would have be a challenge to get Kyoto through Congress regardless of who won the presidency, but you have to assume that Gore, an expert on the issue, would have made a serious effort.

The Bush administration decision to balk on Kyoto led Canada to postpone ratification. Reports in Canada said joining Kyoto without the major trading partner would be an economic disaster. The federal assessment at the time said Kyoto would come at a net cost of $0-5 billion per year, or 0-2% of GDP growth (not GDP, GDP growth). A report by the anti-Kyoto Alberta government claimed a supposedly much greater $40 billion cost to the economy. It received a lot of attention by media outlets, who all seemed to miss the fine print (and forget their times tables). That $40 billion? $5 billon/year X 8 years.

Despite what you may have heard, the dilly-dallying over Kyoto in Canada had more to provincial-federal politics and a bit of fearmongering about economic disaster than these or any other cost assessments. Even the maximum, $5 billion/yr, while not trivial, was manageable. Since it was a net cost - a few sectors of the economy would benefit, a few would be hurt, many would be unaffected - some economists argued it could be easily addressed through tax measures and the like.

The diasgreement between the pro-Kyoto forces (some Liberals, the Bloc, the NDP) and the anti-Kyoto forces (the Alliance, the Alberta gov’t, some Liberals) delayed any actual effort on emissions reductions and made meeting Kyoto increasingly difficult. By time the Protocol was finally ratified in late 2002, Canadian greenhouse gas emissions had grown to more than 20% greater than 1990 emissions. Add in a couple years of waffling over the implementation of Kyoto - the Liberals put together a weak plan because of strong opposition from industry and Alberta - and you get where Canada is today, about 24% greater than 1990 emissions, and more than 30% off the Kyoto target for 2012.

Over that same period, US emissions also grew -- by only 13%. So the country that not only rejected Kyoto, but was the excuse used by anti-Kyoto forces in Canada, was actually doing better than Canada. How could that be? Mostly economics. The US experienced a major economic downturn after 9/11. The Canadian economy, however, continued to grow, in fact it led the G8 in economic growth. Given that neither country is making a serious effort to address greenhouse gas emissions, emissions in both countries tend to follow the economy. Had the US experienced the same economic growth as Canada in 2001-2, the emissions today would be 19% greater than in 1990, closer to the Canadian growth rate.

There we are. The Conservative government in Ottawa now plans to shy away from Kyoto, claiming the it will be impossible to meet the commitment. The goverment will instead reveal a "Made-in-Canada" climate policy, based on a "Made-in-the-USA" policy developed under the Bush Administration.

On tomorrow’s show, I'll demonstrate how you to debunk the Bush Climate policy in a few minutes with nothing more than a calculator and Q-tip.

5 comments:

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Alexa Nickels, a.k.a. "Miss Residual"
Earn Residual Income

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Curt Schimmels said...

This is factually incorrect. Vice President Gore signed the protocol in November of 1998. President Clinton, in the remaining 2 years of his term, never once submitted the accord to Congress for ratification.
President Bush did not "balk." He did not submit for ratification because of the exemption allowed to China, which was (and still is) the largest gross contributor of CO2.