Kyoto ratified!

The lower house of the Russian Duma has voted to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. Although some formal steps remain, this was the last real hurdle to be cleared before the Protocol could come into force.

The only signficant holdouts now are the US and Australia. The Bush Administration has, as expected, said it will do nothing, and Howard will presumably follow. The ratification will pose some significant problems for Kerry, who has tried to sit on the fence so far – his position appears to be that he would seek to renegotiate the treaty to make the terms more favorable to the US. Realistically, this is probably a sensible outcome for the world, but I don’t know in practice how a treaty that’s already in force can be renegotiated unless all parties agree, which seems unlikely.

12 thoughts on “Kyoto ratified!

  1. Australia and America are the big losers.

    The EU is about to launch the world’s first international carbon-trading system. 250,000 tonnes were traded on October 5th as forward contracts on Europe’s fledgling market for carbon-emissions credits. This innovative market response to the complex problem of global warming is a powerful reason to join the Kyoto protocol. Australia, and America (which incidently pioneered such trading), are left out.

    Howard ministers are saying they want more substantial cuts in emmissions, but “economic sense argues for a gentle start to emissions cuts, moving flexibly towards deep cuts in the long term. That would be the surest way to spur the development and adoption of low-carbon energy technologies.”

  2. Cam, you’re right I think, though very similar points could be made about Putin’s failure to ratify earlier. He is simply not the altruistic type.

  3. At the time of the decision, one of Putin’s ministers actually said on record that they viewed it as a retrograde step that was bad for their economy, but that they had no choice. So yes, they were doing it for WTO reasons.

    Re Kerry: he will never get it through the Senate. They were 99-0 against it when Clinton was in power (come to think of it, Kerry was probably one of the 99!). The US will never sign something that tilts the economic playing field against it so dramatically; the Europeans will never allow a re-negotiation which solves that problem, as they no doubt see it as the best aspect of the treaty.

  4. Question: What’s the underlying essential difference between the EU and the US on this issue? I mean I know the Europeans are more sensible, balanced people and all that but why aren’t the same commercial incentives operating there against Kyoto?

    I guess there’s a straightforward answer to this – could one of you erudite chaps enlighten me?

  5. Mike, without anything to back me up on this, I would suspect that the EU has a more energy intensive economy and their exports are ETMs (mmm, Ducatis) with a relatively lower energy input to profit. Also, significant alternative energy sources (nuclear, wind, geo, hydro) and ‘free’ carbon credits (the east german wasteland economy) means they’ve got lower adjustment costs.

    Also they’re probably just more responsible.

  6. The fundamental absurdities of Howard saying
    i) we’ll meet our Kyoto targets but refuse the benefits of trading them, and
    ii) we’ll hold out for a more stringent regime, Kyoto is too soft

    are just beyond me. Do we really have to put up with three more years?

  7. Mike Pepperday, it seems likely to me that the US won’t ratify because there is a belief that the US will be hurt less by climate change than its major trading partners, particularly Europe. Models of the effects of greenhouse by eg. Nordhaus ( and others indicate that after adjustment the US will not be hurt much. On the other hand, Nordhaus’ model has been criticised by none other than our host Prof. Quiggin (with Horowitz) in “Costs of Adjustment to Climate Change” (, on the grounds that the costs of adjustment will be high and are not properly accounted for in the model. You pays your money…

    However my gut tells me that the credibility of a model which says you don’t have to do anything to do better than your competition in the long (greenhouse-affected) run would be enormous. On that ground alone I suspect that the US attitude amounts to “Screw you, Jack, I’ll be alright.”

    Does this make me erudite?

  8. May I commend to you this article:,03253.cfm

    An extract:

    Brussels sees Kyoto, as it saw the social chapter, as a steamroller with which to level the playing field against the more efficient U.S. economy. When global warming science was crumbling last year, Margot Wallstrom, the EU’s environment commissioner, retreated to more honest — some would say, brazen — ground by admitting that Kyoto was “about international relations, this is about the economy, about trying to create a level playing field for big businesses throughout the world.”

  9. That extract is pretty deep into tinfoil hat territory. The rest of the article isn’t much better.

    For a better idea about the costs of Kyoto on the US economy, I’d suggest:

    The Costs of Kyoto for the US Economy by Terry Barker and Paul Ekins The Energy Journal 2004 Page 53.

    From the abstract:

    This paper organises some of the quantitative information on the costs of greenhouse gas mitigation for the US published before the US rejection of Kyoto. The aim is to put them in a wider context, eg., allowing for non-climate benefits, and to draw conclusions that are robust in the face of the uncertainties… Provided policies are expected, gradual and well designed (eg., through auctioned Annex I tradable permits with revenues used to reduce burdensome tax rates) the net costs for the US of mitigation are likely to be insignificant, that is within the range +/- 1% of GDP

  10. Thank you for those responses. That libertarian (“Tinfoil hat”? What?) institute’s column was informative if somewhat bemusing. I guess the general economic answer must be that the EU uses less energy input per dollar profit and that it got some starting point advantage from the wasteful former eastern Europe.

    It may also be that Europe really is more sensible. The US’s liberty myth has gone too far and the country has lost its sense of proportion.

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