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2002 - International Year of the Mountains

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Here is something interesting: (Particularly about our here Lomborg)

March 12, 2002 One Year AfterNow it’s Europe that’s getting cold feet about the Kyoto accords. By Michael StandaertBRUSSELS - Exactly one year ago, on March 13, 2001, President Bush informed four senators that he would not attempt to ratify the Kyoto protocol on climate change.Under the treaty, industrialized nations would have to cut emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, by an average of five percent from 1990 levels by 2012. Signers would have to implement measures to reduce greenhouse emissions (a different amount according to the output of each country) by 2005, with further reductions due each year until 2012. Eighty-four countries, including the U.S., had signed the protocol in 1997, and 46 countries had either ratified or moved to accession agreements by December 2001.Bush's reversal prompted noises of outrage, shock, and regret around the globe. Europe was particularly aggrieved, declaring that Bush's decision laid bare his administration's unilateralist tendencies. But a year later, the complaints have been largely muted. For all the outrage of a year ago, Europe has offered little more than lip service on Kyoto since then, aimed mainly at mollifying Green and Socialist voters.On March 4, the European Commission adopted the decision to ratify Kyoto. The lackluster European Parliament added its vocal, though basically only symbolic, support in early February. This is all well and good and makes Europe look "progressive," but most of the bluster has been just that. Little of substance has been done on a Europe-wide level, and even if the European Union ratifies, implementation will be a murky task. Only five EU member states-Portugal, Spain, Luxembourg, Denmark, and France-have ratified the protocol, and none have officially sent their letters of commitment to the United Nations, hoping they will ratify in force at a later date. According to U.N. documents, no EU countries are in accession agreements. Environmentalists are hoping on a Europe-wide remit to agree on joint ratification during the March environmental council meetings, which would give the EU a push of public sentiment as it goes into the meetings of the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in late August. Still, all agreements on the EU level to ratify the protocol would have to go through the legislatures of each state, which is not a speedy task.Meanwhile, because of the European Commission's rotating six-month presidency, there is not much continuity in Europe's leadership. Belgium held the presidency up until January 1, when Spain stepped in to take over. Spain is interested mainly in issues of EU enlargement and the war on terrorism; there has been little talk about the environment. Between the Commission meeting in June and the Johannesburg summit in August, the presidency will pass to Denmark, which moved dramatically to the right in last fall's elections.Perhaps most important are the jitters behind the scenes in Europe's governments about just how much implementing CO2 emissions trading schemes would cost. Several states are divided about whether to make the trading schemes mandatory or voluntary for businesses during the three-year lead-in period starting in 2005. (Mandatory schemes of implementation were one of the chief problems U.S. negotiators had with the protocol.) According to the Belgian environment minister, Magda Aelvoet, there is "a blocking minority" able to hold up mandatory implementation, including powerhouses Britain and Germany. Germany and the UK saw their CO2 emission rise for the second year in a row last year, mainly from the continued reliance on coal-fired power plants. And they continue to build more.Even smaller countries that have long been pro-Green are getting cold feet. In January, Holland was warned by its bureau for economic policy that the emissions trading scheme would be too expensive. Denmark wants to redefine its target emissions cuts, which had been set abnormally high because a harsh winter had rendered the 1990 base-year emissions measuring-stick unusually high. (Denmark also appointed Skeptical Environmentalist author Bjørn Lomborg an environmental economic advisor in late February, causing shock in many Green groups there.)Japan, Canada, and Australia seem ready to stick with the U.S. position, though most European environmentalists aren't ready to believe this. If the EU goes into Johannesburg without ratifying a Europe-wide agreement, the effect-in the words of the World Wildlife Fund's Stefan Singer-would be "disastrous" for the protocols. Most other world support, it seems, would shift to more voluntary strategies. And to become officially binding in international law toward implementation, 55 countries that account for 55% of emissions would have to ratify.Since its formulation, observers have accused the Kyoto protocol of being a paper tiger. Whether that tiger is endangered or extinct will likely depend on the flexibility and strength of the European Union.

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