Six-nation climate pact is no Kyoto

India, China and four other nations have agreed to a new climate change pact championed by the US that advocates new technologies instead of emissions reductions. However, scientists and environmental activists say it will not replace the Kyoto Protocol, and are sceptical it will result in necessary reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, widely blamed for global warming. “If it leads to real and meaningful reductions in greenhouse gases... then it is a welcome step forward,” said Klaus Toepfer, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). “It is important to mention that this initiative is not a substitute for the Kyoto Protocol,” Toepfer added. Greenpeace, among other environmental organisations, is more critical of the six-nation deal. “The pact, rather than saving the climate, is nothing more than a trade agreement in energy technologies,” Greenpeace Campaigner Stephanie Tunmore said in a statement. Voluntary technology agreements, negotiated by the worst polluters, are not going to result in global emission reductions of the necessary 70-80 per cent from industrialised nations by mid-century in order to avoid catastrophic climate change, Tunmore said.

On Thursday, Australia, China, India, South Korea, Japan and the United States signed the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate in Vientiane, Laos. The participants agreed “to create a new partnership to develop, deploy and transfer cleaner, more efficient technologies and to meet national pollution reduction, energy security and climate change.” But there is little new in the agreement, which appears to be a repackaging of existing bilateral and multilateral technology transfer efforts the US has been pushing for the last several years, according to the Pew Centre on Global Climate Change. The Pew Center is a US-based group that works with the business sector to provide information and solutions on climate change. The Kyoto Protocol also includes technology transfer to developing countries under its so-called “Clean Development Mechanism” provision. Past efforts by the US to use and transfer “clean technologies” have had little impact on reducing GHG emissions, the Pew Centre has found.

“Technology alone is unlikely to be enough. We’re going to need industry incentives and government intervention,” said Daniel Bodansky, a professor of international law at the University of Georgia and a climate change policy negotiator for the US State Department from 1999-2001. According to various media reports, the partnership is a result of yearlong secret talks initiated by the US and Australia, the only two developed countries that have refused to participate in the Kyoto Protocol, which requires industrialised countries to reduce emissions about six per cent below 1990 levels by the year 2012. Less developed nations such as India and China are exempt until 2012 when the Protocol expires and a new, yet-to-be negotiated international climate change treaty that includes all countries will take its place.

Even though the US is the world’s biggest emitter of GHGs, the present administration remains

strongly opposed to any mandatory emissions reductions. It is a clever repackaging of existing

accords to make it appear that the US position on climate change is aligned with India and China’s, Bodansky said. —IPS