Some good news

The Russian Cabinet has agreed to submit the Kyoto protocol to Parliament for ratification. It is probable, though not certain, that the Russian Parliament will approve it, though it’s not clear how soon. Russian ratification would bring the treaty into force.

Australia and the US are now the only significant holdouts. Promises by Bush and Howard to produce an alternative, more effective policy have come to nothing. It’s time for us to join the rest of the world on this one. Howard could win himself a bit of credit by changing his position here.

18 thoughts on “Some good news

  1. John,

    You may be able to set something straight for me. I believe that one of the central tenants of the protocol is that countries that mine and export carbon dioxide (i.e. coal) are the ones who are penalised, not the countries that purchase the coal to be burnt in steel mills, power stations, etc. If this is correct – don’t you see this as being a tad unfair on the coal mining and exporting countries such as Australia?

    Looking forward to your thoughts

  2. Richard, as far as I know this is incorrect. The Kyoto targets apply to emissions, and therefore restrict the countries that burn the coal, not those who mine it.

    But the effect of a tax is the same whether it is levied on buyers or sellers – the burden is shared between them. The same is true if users of coal have to purchase emissions permits. So the long-term economic effect is the same either way.

  3. Given that Howard has stated many times that Australia will meet and is it’s way to meeting it’s Kyoto targets, it’s an utter nonsense that I cannot understand the logic of to say that there will be economic disbenefits to some industries.

    If there are losers then logically they’ve already suffered, so why not sign on for the positives of an international carbon trading regime? Especially considering we’ve got some serious efficiencies we could make and better capacity for sinks than most.

  4. So far as I know, forecasts of the effects of global warming are all bad for Australia. For Russia, there is a school of thought that some benefits will accrue through opening up some permafrost areas for agriculture. So Russia ratifies and Australia doesn’t! Welcome to the cleffer cuntrie.

  5. Gordon: You mistakenly assume that whether or not countries ratifying the kyoto protocol will make any difference at all to global warming. It won’t.

    It will cost us a shitload of money though. Yay!

  6. John, you may need to remember that Kyoto’s targets are mostly based on politics rather than on science. Is it good news that countries are ratifying a treaty with very high costs and no clearly quantifiable benefits? I don’t think so.

    There is a very interesting exercise on policy making called Copenhagen Consensus, where people try to rank large projects with benefits to humanity according to their benefit/cost relationship. Kyoto doesn’t fair very well.

  7. Luis, I’ve written at length on the Copenhagen Consensus (use the search facility for more entries)>

    For those who don’t want to read the long version, the short answer is that the exercise was a put-up job organised by Bjorn Lomborg.

  8. Before I go read John’s article, a few thoughts for you Luis.

    BTW, Yobbo – yeah, you are.

    Luis, while drawing our attention to a perhaps quite worthwhile initiative that was the Copenhagen Consensus (it reconvenes in 2008 to have a second go, btw) you’ve also managed to suggest that only quantifiable things should be of worth to us. Really? What is your opinion of the reasoning by which the Copenhagen Consensus resolved to make no finding of any quantifiable – or even “prioritizable” – kind on:
    – the provision of education in developing countries
    – the desirability of reducing the incidence of civil wars
    – the question of international financial stability
    – the unquantifiable value to this and future generations of Earth retaining its coral reefs, rainforests, equatorial glaciers, stable sea levels, clean air etc

    The first three issues above were indeed considered by the group, yet no answers were forthcoming. Were they not amenable to econometric analysis and therefore not ranked by the group?

    And did the group conclude as follows? “The panel
    recognised that global warming must be addressed, but agreed that approaches based on too abrupt a shift toward lower emissions of carbon are needlessly expensive. The experts expressed an interest in an alternative, proposed in one of
    the opponent papers, that envisaged a carbon tax much lower in the first years of implementation than the figures called for in the challenge paper, rising gradually in later years. Such a proposal however was not examined in detail in the presentations put to the panel, and so was not ranked. The panel urged increased funding for
    research into more affordable carbon-abatement technologies.”

    Kyoto is a stepping stone at best. I’d be interested in hearing of your bright ideas to mitigate the global warming that the group you cite agrees needs to be addressed.

  9. Luis, you are quiet correct. This is a just a political stunt that will never get off the ground. Just a bit of “sweet talkin” by Putin to win over the EU in WTO negotiations.

  10. Frankis, I don’t want to fall into a exclusively reductionist stance; however, when we are making decisions on resource allocation for competing uses there has to be a criterion (or set of criteria) that allow us to make us decisions. John, I am not contending that the Copenhagen Consensus (CH) is flawless, or that it is the only way to go, or that it does not have biases. Nevertheless, in my opinion is an interesting attempt at policy making.

    The Kyoto protocol is, at least, as political as the CH and the ‘step in the right direction’ has an incredible large number of assumptions (in many cases untested). All evidence I have seen suggests a moderate level of warming (sort of the lowest level scenarios put forward by the protocol) and there is no way to separate anthropic effects from any other natural cycles.

    In this issue I tend to agree with tipper, I would bet on Puttin trying to influence negotiations rather than on a sudden environmental epiphany.

  11. Last points first Luis: why don’t we all suppose that Tipper’s imputation of Putin’s motive is close to the mark, OK?

    As for not getting too reductionist that’ll be just fine for the politics I suppose. But you’re making an economic argument here, and yourself cited favourably the conclusions of a group of economists – nothing but economists, all the way down! – when you referred to the Copenhagen Consensus. And they agreed global warming had to be addressed (whereas you claim, contrarily, “there is no way to separate anthropic effects”), and they favoured a carbon tax. If, having cited the group so approvingly, you’re now going to agree with them on those two points then so am I. Perhaps the world could make some progress with a carbon tax, with or without Kyoto.

  12. Hi Frankis, well those economists agree that global warming has to be addressed after over ten other issues. I can think of a few other problems to add to the list before getting down to global warming. Whatever we decide to tackle first involves having first an appropriate way of ranking ‘projects’, and that will require a way of quantifying ‘cute and furry’ issues. I can’t think of another way of making decisions that will lead to long term maximisation of people’s wellbeing.

  13. Civil war, third world education, and global warming are “cute and furry” issues are they? Well, what are substantive issues then? It’s not clear that you’ve read the actual deliberations or papers produced by those economists, Luis. And I’m afraid that if you will continue to insist on quantifying everything – including things those economists, that you cited, themselves called unquantifiable but very important – then it looks like we’ll be waiting a long time for you to maximize our wellbeing for us (which’d be sad I reckon).

  14. Frankis, your first post in this thread said: …the unquantifiable value to this and future generations of Earth retaining its coral reefs, rainforests, equatorial glaciers, stable sea levels, clean air etc
    and that is what I was referring to with ‘cute and furry’. By the way, this is my last post to this thread.

  15. Cheers Luis. Just for the record, noted in that earlier post as having been referred to as very serious issues by that group of economists were these unquantifiables:

    – the provision of education in developing countries
    – the desirability of reducing the incidence of civil wars
    – the question of international financial stability

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