Monthly Archives: December 2007

The UN fails again

As reported by Bloomberg:

China, India and other developing countries probably won’t be required to take on legally binding commitments to cut their greenhouse-gas emissions under a new climate-change treaty, a United Nations official said today…

The U.S. has refused to join the 1997 Kyoto accord in part because China and other rapidly emerging economies aren’t required under the treaty to make the same pollution cuts as industrialized nations. The U.S. and China are the world’s largest emitters of global warming pollution.

China and other developing countries say they shouldn’t be required to meet the same standard as developed countries because they are in the early stages of trying to fuel economic growth to pull billions of people out of poverty. The European Union and environmentalists agree, though they say they want to see stronger efforts from the countries in a new climate accord.

You see the vicious circle? “We won’t do it because they won’t do it”. Somebody needs to take the lead. One EU negotiator has gone so far as to say China need not make carbon cut commitments, but rather improve energy efficiency. Shouldn’t the two go hand in hand? China is building a coal power plant per week — energy efficiency will not remove the harmful environmental effect of that much burning fossil fuel.

Am I being unfairly bitter, or do I have a point?

Movement on Kyoto

Australia has ratified the Kyoto Protocol, leaving the US the only major industrialised nation yet to agree to the climate treaty.

The endorsement was approved by the first executive council meeting of Australia’s new Labor government this morning, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said in a statement on the Labor Party’s Web site. Australia will become a full member of the Kyoto Protocol by the end of March, he said.

Rudd promised to make climate change a priority for his government, and I’m delighted with the drive he’s shown so far.

Australia’s target under the Kyoto accord is to limit growth in greenhouse gas emissions to an 8 percent increase above 1990 levels over the 2008-2012 period. The country is “tracking within 1 percentage point” of meeting that target, then-environment minister Malcolm Turnbull said in May. Australia is one of only three industrialized nations signed up to the accord that are allowed to increase emissions from 1990 levels by 2008-2012.

The Labor government will do “everything in its power” to help the nation meet its Kyoto obligations, Rudd said. This will include setting a target to cut emissions by 60 percent on 2000 levels by 2050, starting a national emissions trading system by 2020 and setting a target for 20 percent of electricity to come from renewable sources such as the sun and wind by 2020, he said.

The timing couldn’t be better, as delegates from around the world are meeting in Bali to hammer out the successor to Kyoto, which expires in 2012. If it puts pressure on the US to sign up — though this might only happen under the next administration — so much the better. And the more major nations on board, the more likely developing countries such as China will join too.

Malawi's transformation

Malawi has gone from famine-stricken to exporting food in just a couple of years. The secret? It ignored what the experts told it to do and instead did what was best for its people.

Over the past 20 years, the World Bank and some rich nations Malawi depends on for aid have periodically pressed this small, landlocked country to adhere to free market policies and cut back or eliminate fertilizer subsidies, even as the United States and Europe extensively subsidized their own farmers. But after the 2005 harvest, the worst in a decade, Bingu wa Mutharika, Malawi’s newly elected president, decided to follow what the West practiced, not what it preached.

Stung by the humiliation of pleading for charity, he led the way to reinstating and deepening fertilizer subsidies despite a skeptical reception from the United States and Britain. Malawi’s soil, like that across sub-Saharan Africa, is gravely depleted, and many, if not most, of its farmers are too poor to afford fertilizer at market prices.

Corn production is 3.4bn tonnes, more than twice what it was in 2005. The World Bank and others have expressed doubts over whether or not these figures have been inflated, but it is nonetheless exporting to its neighbours while not depending on international aid.