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International Environmental Policy

Interests and the Failure of the Kyoto Process

Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen and Aynsley Kellow

The Kyoto Protocol has singularly failed to shape international environmental policy-making in the way that the earlier Montreal protocol did. Whereas Montreal placed reliance on the force of science and moralistic injunctions to save the planet, and successfully determined the international response to climate change, Kyoto has proved significantly more problematic. International Environmental Policy considers why this is the case. The authors contend that such arguments on this occasion proved inadequate to the task, not just because the core issues of the Kyoto process were subject to more powerful and conflicting interests than previously, and the science too uncertain, but because the science and moral arguments themselves remained too weak. They argue that ‘global warming’ is a failing policy construct because it has served to benefit limited but undeclared interests that were sustained by green beliefs rather than robust scientific knowledge.
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Chapter 3: Energy Interests, Opportunities, and Uneven Burden-sharing

Interests and the Failure of the Kyoto Process

Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen and Aynsley Kellow


Boehmer 01 chaps 1/10/02 1:44 pm Page 33 3. Energy interests, opportunities and uneven burden-sharing In order to understand why the Kyoto process ran into the sand it is necessary to consider critically what was at stake: how various interests were impacted by the Protocol, what Kyoto sought to achieve, and what the chances were of achieving the commitments contained within it. Kyoto, if ratified, will make very little difference to future accumulation of GHGs and thus the possibility of anthropogenic climate change. However, it is meant to be only a first step, and the need for the other steps leading to very much greater net emission reduction must be considered. Very profound changes in human life styles and consumption patterns would be needed and/or major technological changes world-wide. Who is to accomplish such change in politically acceptable ways and would the benefits be worth the costs and pains? Or is the climate threat intended to be no more than an incentive for these first small steps with unknown regional impacts? One model-based estimate was that by 2100 Kyoto would reduce an increase in mean global temperatures of 2.1°C by a mere 0.2°C – a very small difference indeed. To achieve this insignificant result, it would have shaved perhaps 2 percentage points off growth in GDP in Annex I countries (Annex I includes the industrial nations – essentially the OECD members plus the former Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc) – a sizable amount over 100 years, and about $250–500...

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