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December 16, 2010
UN Climate consensus failing
Japan played a major role in undermining the Kyoto Protocol at the recent UN climate conference in Cancun, Mexico. Tokyo declared that it would not commit to a second period of Kyoto after 2012 unless all other major economies were required to make carbon emission cuts. Japan's chief cabinet secretary, Yoshito Sengoku, called Kyoto "unfair and ineffective." The 1997 Kyoto Protocol only requires the "rich" developed countries to restrict their economic activity while allowing the developing countries to pursue growth at full tilt. The United States has long been criticized by the developing states and the Green movement for refusing to ratify Kyoto because of its asymmetrical mandates. Now it is Tokyo's turn to be attacked.
Yuri Onodera, Friends of the Earth Japan: "Japan's move to drop out of the Kyoto treaty shows a severe lack of recognition of its own historical and moral responsibility. With this position, Japan isolates itself from the rest of the world. Even worse, this step undermines the ongoing talks and is a serious threat to the progress needed here in Cancun." The truth is quite the contrary. The government of Prime Minister Naoto Kan knows exactly where its responsibility rests. Japanese industry cannot be put at a competitive disadvantage when the U.S. and China are free of any limitations. And Japan was not isolated, as it was joined in its stance by Russia, Canada, Australia and Turkey while America stood by its previous position. Other developed nations are thought to support a break with Kyoto in private, though the self-destructing European Union seems paralyzed on the subject.
The UN Framework Conference on Climate Change has been advocating a new treaty to replace Kyoto, but the Cancun Agreement pushes that effort into at least another year of talks. The odds are getting longer against any new treaty based on the Kyoto model as the number of major nations opposed to accepting imposed limitations increase.
The BASIC bloc of China (the world's #3 economy with a GDP of $5 trillion), Brazil (#8 with GDP of $1.6 trillion), India (#11, $1.3 trillion) and South Africa (#31, $0.3 trillion) is adamant about the right of its members to develop without external constraint. The U.S. (#1, $14.1 trillion), Japan (#2, $5 trillion), Canada (#10, $1.3 trillion), Russia (#12, $1.2 trillion), Australia ($13, $0.9 trillion) and Turkey (#17, $0.6 trillion) refuse to accept restrictions unless BASIC does. Together, these ten nations account for over half of the global economy; $31.3 trillion in GDP out of a world total worth $58.1 trillion according to the World Bank.
The world's most successful economies may see each other as competitors in international commerce, but they are coming together in favor of continued growth and national independence from UN governance.