Climate promises are easy to make, but hard to keep

My upcoming BGGE course will have some major projects on climate change negotiation, so I’ve been reading about recent developments more than usual. As usual,  Bjørn Lomborg has some intriguing ways of slicing the numbers. Unlike the old days, GCC deniers won’t get much comfort from him, though.

To be sure, Europe has made some progress towards reducing its carbon-dioxide emissions. But, of the 15 European Union countries represented at the Kyoto summit, 10 have still not meet the targets agreed there. Neither will Japan or Canada. And the United States never even ratified the agreement. In all, we are likely to achieve barely 5% of the promised Kyoto reduction.

To put it another way, let’s say we index 1990 global emissions at 100. If there were no Kyoto at all, the 2010 level would have been 142.7. With full Kyoto implementation, it would have been 133. In fact, the actual outcome of Kyoto is likely to be a 2010 level of 142.2 – virtually the same as if we had done nothing at all. Given 12 years of continuous talks and praise for Kyoto, this is not much of an accomplishment.

The Kyoto Protocol did not fail because any one nation let the rest of the world down. It failed because making quick, drastic cuts in carbon emissions is extremely expensive. Whether or not Copenhagen is declared a political victory, that inescapable fact of economic life will once again prevail – and grand promises will once again go unfulfilled.

via Project Syndicate – Climate Change and “Climategate”.

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