Tortuous Targets in Kyoto

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Even industrialized countries differ widely among themselves in geography, population, natural resource base, climatic conditions, industrial structure, and dependence on energy. Since these critical parameters are either intrinsic or immutable in the short run, it is extremely difficult to establish short-term emissions targets that are both economically feasible and equitable. Nevertheless, the Kyoto negotiators tried.

The centerpiece of the Kyoto Protocol is the commitment by Annex I countries, as a group, to reduce their net emissions of a weighted basket of six greenhouse gases by 5.2% below 1990 levels when averaged over the five-year period 2008-2012. (United Nations, 1997). The gases are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluo-ride; parties have the option of measuring the latter three gases against either a 1990 or a 1995 baseline. Within the Annex I group, individual states committed themselves to differing reduction targets, e.g., 8% for Switzerland, the European Union, and many Central and East European nations; 7% for the United States; 6% for Canada, Hungary, Japan, and Poland; 5% for Croatia. New Zealand, Russia, and Ukraine were not required by Kyoto to lower emissions below 1990 levels, while negotiators from Australia, Iceland, and Norway were successful in obtaining acquiescence to higher emissions (Article 3). Table 1 provides a summary of carbon dioxide emissions in 1990 and 1997, and Kyoto targets, for each Annex I country, and for non-Annex I (developing nation) regions (IEA, 1999,p. 18).

With some fanfare, the 15-nation European Union committed to an 8% reduction as a bloc. Lost in the self-congratulation, however, was the interesting fact that 7 of the 15—including France and Sweden—would actually maintain or increase their emissions inside the EU "bubble." The widely publicized "European" target in fact depends on steep reductions by Germany (— 21%) and the United Kingdom (— 12.5%) to lower the community average. In both these cases, special circumstances prevailed that were independent of climate change mitigation policies. Reunified Germany benefited from the 1990 base year that incorporated high emissions in the former German Democratic Republic before they plummeted due to economic collapse. In the United Kingdom, the Thatcher Government's campaign to weaken the power of coal miner unions stimulated switching to natural gas—which is much less carbon-intensive.

As governments appeared unwilling to confront powerful industrial interests head-on by enacting sector-specific policy measures to limit use of fossil fuels, e.g., in transportation or utilities, they opted instead for arbitrary short-term overall targets. The result was that the numbers so feverishly bargained in the midnight hours at Kyoto bore no relationship to either scientific or economic realities. The Kyoto Protocol thus inadvertently manages to be simultaneously far too strong in the short run, and yet far too weak to address the long-term problem of climate change.

The 11-15 year Kyoto targets are clearly inadequate to make any dent in future atmospheric concentrations, which is the crucial measure of danger to climate. Even if the protocol were fully implemented, it would only serve to delay by less than a decade the date in the next century at which global carbon dioxide concentrations, under current emissions trends projected by IPCC, would cross the 550 parts per million (ppm) mark that represents a doubling of preindustrial concentrations

TABLE 1 Total CO: Emissions from Fuel Combustion (Million Tons of co2y

1990 1997 97/90(%) Target1

1990 1997 97/90(%) Target1

TABLE 1 Total CO: Emissions from Fuel Combustion (Million Tons of co2y

Annex 1

14,003.3

13,633.8

-2.6

Annex I!

10,081.4

10,937.6

8.5

North America

5301.0

5947.9

12.2

Canada

427.5

477.4

11.7

-6

United States

4873.4

5470.5

12.3

-7

Europe

3-130.3

3177.9

1.1

Austria

59.4

64.1

7.9

- 13

Belgium

109.1

122.6

12.3

-7.5

Denmark

52.9

62.4

17.9

-21

Finland

54.4

64.1

17.9

0

France2

378.3

362.9

-4.1

0

Germ ¡my

981.4

884.0

- 9.9

-21

Greece

72.3

80.6

11.5

+ 25

Iceland

2.2

2.4

8.1

10

Ireland

33.2

37.6

13.0

T 13

Italy

408.2

424.3

4.0

- 6.5

Luxembourg

10.9

8.6

- 20.6

-28

Netherlands

161.3

184.3

14.3

-6

Norway

29.8

31.3

15.1

I 1

Portugal

■11.5

52.0

25.3

-i- ?7

Spain

215.0

253.8

18.0

-H5

Sweden

52.7

52.9

0.5

+ 4

Switzerland1"'

44.2

44.8

1.2

-8

dur key

138.4

187.5

35.5

none

United Kingdom

585.3

554.7

-5.2

- 12.5

Pacific

1350.1

151 1.9

12.0

Australia

263.0

306.1

16.1

+ 8

Japan

1061.8

1172.6

10.4

-6

New Zealand

25.4

33.1

30.7

0

KITs

3921.9

2696.2

31.3

Belarus

61.3

none

Bulgaria

72.2

51.0

- 29.4

-8

Croatia

17.5

5

Czech Republic

M 1.8

120.9

- 1-1.7

-8

Estonia

18.2

-8

Hungary

68.1

58.2

- 14.5

-6

Latvia

8.5

-8

Lithuania

14.7

-8

Poland

349.1

350.3

0.3

-6

Romania

167.3

110.7

-33.8

-8

Russia

1156.2

0

Slovak Republic

54.2

38.3

- 29.3

-8

Slovenia

12.7

14.9

16.7

-8

Ukraine

375.6

0

Non-Annex I

6866.7

8927.6

30.0

none

Africa

611.5

729.4

19.3

none

Middle East

617.9

955.9

47.5

none

Non-OECD Europe'

121.0

76.8

- 36.6

none

Former USSRC

574.2

322.7

-43.8

none

Latin America1

945.0

1224.7

29.6

none

Asia (excl. China)1

1568.7

2456.2

56.6

none

China

2398.3

3162.0

31.8

none

MAR. BUNKERS'1

376.0

419.6

11.6

World Total

21,215.9

22,981.1

8.2

Annex Be

13,719.0

13,385.0

-2.6

'The overall FU KvoSo largel lor ail six gases covered in I lie Protocol is — 8%, hut the member countries have agreed on a burden-sharing arrangement as listed. This table assumes that the target applies equally to all greenhouse gases. Because of different base vears tor ditierenl countries and gases, a precise "Kyoto target" cannot be calculated tor total Annex I or total Annex B.

''Emissions from Lichtenstein are included in emissions from Switzerland and emis sions irom Monaco are included in emissions Irom France.

' Regions differ from those shown elsewhere in this publication to take into account countries that are not members ot Annex I.

0 International marine bunkers onlv. international aviation bunkers are included in country totals.

' Annex B includes the countries and regional economic integration organisation that were included in Annex B oi I he Kvoio Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Source: IEA. (1999). International Energy Agency. Carbon Dioxide Emissions From Eos sii Fuel C.innbuslion, Highlight-.

(Edmonds, 1999b). In fairness, Kyoto was intended only as a first step. But its provisions provide 110 coherent concept for future emissions reductions.

Yet how could the protocol also be too strong, when it prescribes no change at all in total emissions of industrialized countries? As a group, their emissions in 1997 already stood at the 2008-2012 target level of about 5% below 1990. Thanks to economic downturn and restructuring following the collapse of communism, emissions from the Eastern European countries were by 1997 31% below their 1990 baseline (IEA, 1999,p.15). When one adds in the German and British declines already mentioned, total Annex I emissions were below 1990—for reasons unrelated to any climate mitigation policies.

However, other large emitters were by 1997 already well above 1990 levels and still climbing, notably Australia (+ 16%), Canada and the United States (+ 12%), and Japan (+ 10%). U.S. emissions in particular were buoyed by considerably more vibrant economic activity than that in Europe. In the heat of transatlantic finger-pointing, it was not generally recognized that the U.S. actually had considerably improved its carbon dioxide energy efficiency from 1990 to 1997, i.e., its emissions declined in relation to economic growth. Indeed, the increased U.S. efficiency over this period was exceeded only by four EU member states (apart from the special cases Germany and U.K.) (IEA, 1999,p.56).

Thus, the Kyoto targets could, for countries such as the U.S., translate into required emissions reductions of as much as 25-30% below the level from which they are headed in the 2008-2012 commitment period—the beginning of which is now only 7 years away (White, 1998; Benedick, 1998b). Compliance difficulties for Canada and the U.S. are compounded by their population growth rates, which are much higher than that of Europe. This means that compliance on a per capita basis becomes relatively more onerous: they are, in effect, being penalized for having more liberal immigration policies. For the U.S. to meet its Kyoto commitment, carbon dioxide emissions on a per capita basis would have to drop to levels not seen since the end of World War II. In contrast, 1995 per capita emissions in the European Union were only slightly above its Kyoto target (Meyerson, 1998). The population inequity factor becomes even more significant in future years. According to the latest United Nations projections (medium, or "most likely" variant), the U.S. population by 2050 will be 37% higher than in 1990, while the populations of Japan and Germany will decrease by 15% and 8%, respectively (United Nations Population Division, 1999).

In the relatively short time available, cuts of the required magnitude cannot be achieved without scrapping major capital investments in power plants, factories, transport systems, and buildings, before they are obsolete, which means high costs and economic disruption. For the U.S., achieving the Kyoto-mandated reductions would require the kind of pressure that could come only from politically unacceptable high carbon taxes (Nordhaus and Boyer, 1999; Kopp, 1997). Only five years ago President Clinton failed to get even a 5 cent per gallon gasoline tax increase from a Congress then controlled by his own party.

Nor is it a foregone conclusion that the EU will be able to achieve its Kyoto commitment. There are signs that Germany, whose domestic 21% emissions reduction goal is vital to reaching the European Union's combined 8% cut, may be faltering in its progress. German carbon dioxide emissions began to creep upward in 1995, affected by increases from the transportation and household sectors; partial data for 1997 showed a slight rise from the industry sector. It appears that following the initial hefty decline after the 1990 East German dividend, some additional relatively easy steps were taken to stimulate energy conservation and efficiency. But the low-cost no-regrets strategies have apparently been exhausted (Klepper, 1999). Germany's situation is particularly sensitive because of persisting high unemployment, which increases the political risks of taxes or other costly instruments. The beleaguered Social Democrat/Green coalition government, reeling from unanticipated electoral defeats in 1999, may now be reluctant or unable to implement harder measures.

In 1996, carbon dioxide emissions also rose in other EU member states, including the U.K., that had set substantial domestic reduction goals in order for the EU as an entity to meet its Kyoto target (CDIAG, 1999). By 1997, the Netherlands' emissions were 14% above 1990 levels (Kyoto target: -6%); Belgium was + 12% (target: - 7.5%); and Denmark was + 18% (target: - 21%.) (IEA, 1999, p.38). The European Commission itself estimated in May 1999 that, unless additional strong measures are adopted, EU emissions by 2010 would stand at 6% above 1990 levels, rather than 8% below (European Commission, 1999). OPEC success in raising crude oil prices in 1999 may come to the rescue by inducing further energy conservation. But all of these developments bear close watching.

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