Have you ever thought about Kyoto?

The Kyoto Protocol is an active treaty that was put into effect on February 16, 2005 as an addition to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  The primary concept behind this treaty is to reduce the global production of Greenhouse gases like CO2, which as we have learned in class is a primary concern for the global rise in temperature.  One of the problems with the Kyoto Protocol are that it does not do enough to address CO2 and other Greenhouse gas emissions because it does not establish limits on the output of emissions in developing countries.  While the initial 30 countries that signed the treaty  are needed for the purpose of maintaining or stabilizing CO2 sinks, preventing expanses of emissions in developing nations like China and India is extremely important.   Without such restrictions addressing important topics like Carbon Trading and population growth, effective global regulation is not possible.  Instead, this treaty actually pushes greenhouse gas emissions from one location on the planet to another as businesses have the ability to move high polluting manufacturing processes to countries where developing new sources of pollution would not be highly regulated.  

Additionally, this treaty does not effectively calculate the cost of growing populations, and in fact does not regulate India and China in an effective manner to balance these nations consumption under populations that are growing at an exponential rate.  The fact, these nations which combined population exceeds 1/3rd of the world’s population yet as nations their participation in Kyoto protocols came without binding emission targets.

Many people believe that because the Kyoto Protocol does not do enough to address CO2 and other GHG’s, includes weak measures in regulating Carbon Trading and does not address factors of population growth, this treaty does not bring effective measures that balance GHG emissions on a global level to justify participation by the United States.

Three Main Argument points

The kyoto protocol does not do enough to address CO2 and other GHG Emissions

The Kyoto Protocol, while achieving amazing levels of cooperation amongst nations did not effectively establish Global reduction of Carbon Emissions. In fact, a variety of conditions under which the Kyoto Protocol was established have significantly changed, especially in the areas of manufacturing and pollution discharge.  These increases are in part because these regulations allowed manufacturers to move their operations to these nations where emissions are unregulated.

In order to produce a standard that works on a global level to achieve and maintain a permanent reduction of inorganic atmospheric greenhouse gasses – which include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), , hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs),and other gasses into the atmosphere, all nations must find these regulations apply universally so that manufactures and corporations must fall into equal compliance.   In fact because the provisions allow for carbon trading, the primary methodology behind these provisions is flawed.  Not only will there be financial advantages to trading that will will allow underdeveloped nations to increase their gas emissions, increasing global output, but by ‘trading away’ their emissions, more developed nations could instead shift the location of production and could potentially further increase the overall global output.  

This is not just a fear.  In fact China can be used as a primary example.  

The air quality conditions in China are a primary example of why the current recommendations for carbon offsetting via planting forests to alleviate carbon under the concept of carbon trading is not an effective plan for reducing global carbon in our atmosphere.  While the long term global air quality may be improved because of forest growth, it doesn’t eliminate the problem of uncontrolled pollution at the source.  Even if China cleaned up it’s air quality with strict regulations, manufacturers who find the cost of cleanup to expensive would move their operations to other developing nations where regulations and emissions limits are not established

According the the Dag Hammarskjold foundation, “the most fundamental point to note about carbon offsets is that they increase global emissions rather than decrease them”  The reasoning behind this is that “ even if ‘emissions reduction sold by an offset project developer could be verified as successful, any gain would – by definition be nullified by increased emission allowed to the buyer, delaying the transition to a post – fossil fuel economy elsewhere.  If every project were designed and implemented perfectly, the net result would be to move emissions from one place to another with no net reduction.”  Carbon Trading How it works and why it fails “ Nov 2009    Essentially the concept of carbon trading allows for a major polluter to avoid significant and lasting changes to their facilities.  Instead they are riding the coattails of those who are producing minimized pollution by “buying” the amount of pollution the newer facility didn’t create.  

There are two negative behaviors associated with Carbon Trading.  The primary one,is that high polluting factories avoid cleaning up after themselves by bearing the financial burden and potential shutdown times by retrofitting factories or changing out machinery for less polluting models.  This practice offsets pollution in one high pollution area and credits global areas of the southern hemisphere that are underdeveloped.  In fact, this practice forces nations into a continued poverty based on the need to retain areas of the planet that are still healthy and full of vital life.

A secondary impact of Carbon Trading is the effort to push disruptive and unnecessary projects in communities that may not need them.  One example of such is a case in Thailand where A.T. Biopower wanted to create 5 biomass factories to use rice husks for energy development so Japan’s Mitubishi UFS Securities and Chubu Electric could create Carbon offsets.  In this example the movement of people protected their land, rivers and local need for the proposed alternative use of rice husks which is used for animal beds and a staple of compost to provided needed filler for blending with animal wastes.  

Meanwhile, The United States is establishing amazing standards imposed upon the Green Revolution of the 1960’s and 70’s.  Programs like the multiple revisions to the Clean Air act, National Ambient Air Quality Standards (for ozone and particulate matter the Clear Skies Proposal as well as others, are already working.   “In the case of particulate matter (PM), EPA has also been working hard to provide States with appropriate tools and guidance to implement the 1997 air quality standards.   According to Congressional Testimony “ – these standards will define the further reduction and implementation of matter that were not covered in earlier policy like the: the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR), Clean Air Mercury Rule (CAMR), and Best Available Retrofit Technology (BART)  as well as establishing guidelines based on “ reasonably available control measures (RACM); reasonably available control technology (RACT); and a  policy on PM2.5 and precursors such as SO2, NOx, VOC, ammonia, and direct emissions (including organic carbon, elemental carbon and crustal material); “    These standards will continue to phase out unfiltered GHG Emissions that regulate American consumption much more rigorously than standards established by other nations.

In fact the conditions in the US are improving.  “On October 5, 2009, President Obama signed Executive Order 13514 on Federal Sustainability, setting measureable environmental performance goals for Federal Agencies.  Each Federal Agency was required to submit a 2020 GHG pollution reduction target from its estimated 2008 baseline to the White House Council on Environmental Quality and to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget by January 4, 2010  Because  President Obama made a commitment to reduce active emissions of greenhouse gases within United States by 28% by 2020.  It is perceived that this will additionally establish future employment opportunities through the construction of new infrastructures and scrubbing technologies.

But does this really make a difference?  As the United States is actively facing areas of drought in major food production areas of the southwest, talk of faltering infrastructures come up time and time again.  Had the United States signed on to the Kyoto Protocol when it was first ratified by the world, how would aspects of our infrastructure remain the same, or change?  Would there be more train stations, would recycling programs be more effectively supported so as to reduce materials manufacturing costs to reduce pollutant contaminants and CO2 emissions?  Would there be more sustainable practice education and access?  Would businesses like coffee shops, gas stations and fast food restaurants charge for the carbon cost of plastics and waste materials?  Would recycling be the law of the land where US based systems processed the materials instead of sending virtually all plastics, precious metals and e-wastes to third world countries?  

We will never know what could have been, but – if you have followed this blog you already know how bad it’s getting.  Just some food for thought.


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