Montreal ja COP


Avustajani laittoi viestin Montrealista. Hän oli lähtenyt ilmastokokoukseen jo perjantaina, ja kun NHL-matsi sattui sopivasti, lapsuuden haave kuulemma toteutui. Itse lähden perässä heti Itsenäisyyspäivän jälkeen keskiviikkoaamuna seitsemän koneella. Itsenäisyysjuhlinnan täytyy siis olla hillittyä. Kokemuksesta tiedän, että COPin loppuvaihe on tiivistä kokoustamista, eikä muuhun jää aikaa.

Uutiset GOLF-virran lauhtumisesta tulivat perjantaina, eivätkä ainakaan vähennä kokouksen ajankohtaisuutta. Uutistiedot ovat hälyttäviä, jos niitä tutkii menneisyyden valossa: historia osoittaa että muutokset virtauksessa ovat merkinneet muutoksia ilmasto-olosuhteissa.

Lainaan tähän päivän New York Timesin tunnelmia Montrealista: vaikka tilanne on vakava, yhä enemmän esitetään epäilyjä, onko reseptimme, Kioto, sittenkään oikea ja tehokas.

Published: December 4, 2005

IN December 1997, representatives of most of the world's nations met in Kyoto, Japan, to negotiate a binding agreement to cut emissions of "greenhouse" gases.

They succeeded. The Kyoto Protocol was ultimately ratified by 156 countries. It was the first agreement of its kind. But it may also prove to be the last.

Today, in the middle of new global warming talks in Montreal, there is a sense that the whole idea of global agreements to cut greenhouse gases won't work.

A major reason the optimism over Kyoto has eroded so rapidly is that its major requirement – that 38 participating industrialized countries cut their greenhouse emissions below 1990 levels by the year 2012 – was seen as just a first step toward increasingly aggressive cuts.

But in the years after the protocol was announced, developing countries, including the fast-growing giants China and India, have held firm on their insistence that they would accept no emissions cuts, even though they are likely to be the world's dominant source of greenhouse gases in coming years.

Their refusal helped fuel strong opposition to the treaty in the United States Senate and its eventual rejection by President Bush.

But the current stalemate is not just because of the inadequacies of the protocol. It is also a response to the world's ballooning energy appetite, which, largely because of economic growth in China, has exceeded almost everyone's expectations. And there are still no viable alternatives to fossil fuels, the main source of greenhouse gases.

Then, too, there is a growing recognition of the economic costs incurred by signing on to the Kyoto Protocol.

As Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, a proponent of emissions targets, said in a statement on Nov. 1: "The blunt truth about the politics of climate change is that no country will want to sacrifice its economy in order to meet this challenge."

This is as true, in different ways, in developed nations with high unemployment, like Germany and France, as it is in Russia, which said last week that it may have spot energy shortages this winter.

Some veterans of climate diplomacy and science now say that perhaps the entire architecture of the climate treaty process might be flawed.

The basic template came out of the first international pact intended to protect the atmosphere, the 1987 Montreal Protocol for eliminating chemicals that harmed the ozone layer, said Richard A. Benedick, the Reagan administration's chief representative in the talks leading to that agreement.

That agreement was a success, but a misleading one in the context of climate. It led, Mr. Benedick now says, to "years wasted in these annual shindigs designed to generate sound bites instead of sober contemplation of difficult issues."

While it was relatively easy to phase out ozone-harming chemicals, called chlorofluorocarbons, which were made by a handful of companies in a few countries, taking on carbon dioxide, the main climate threat, was a completely different matter, he said.

Carbon dioxide is generated by activities as varied as surfing the Web, driving a car, burning wood or flying to Montreal. Its production is woven into the fabric of an industrial society, and, for now, economic growth is inconceivable without it.

Developing countries – China and India being only the most dramatic examples – want to burn whatever energy they need, in whatever form available, to grow their economies and raise the living standard of their people.

And the United States – by far the world's largest producer of greenhouse gases – continues to say that emissions targets or requirements would stunt economic growth in both rich and poor nations. All this has turned the Montreal meeting, many participants have conceded, into, at best, a preliminary meeting on how to start over in addressing the threat of global warming.

Indeed, from here on, progress on climate is less likely to come from megaconferences like the one in Montreal and more likely from focused initiatives by clusters of countries with common interests, said Mr. Benedick, who is now a consultant and president of the National Council on Science and the Environment, a private group promoting science-based environmental policies.

The only real answer at the moment is still far out on the horizon: nonpolluting energy sources. But the amount of money being devoted to research and develop such technologies, much less install them, is nowhere near the scale of the problem, many experts on energy technology said.

Enormous investments in basic research have to be made promptly, even with the knowledge that most of the research is likely to fail, if there is to be any chance of creating options for the world's vastly increased energy thirst in a few decades, said Richard G. Richels, an economist at the Electric Power Research Institute, a nonprofit center for energy and environment research.

"The train is not leaving the station, and it needs to leave the station," Mr. Richels said. "If we don't have the technologies available at that time, it's going to be a mess."

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