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Emission Control Agreement Hits an Economic Problem

The stormy economic climate is buffeting the efforts to control greenhouse gas emissions. Even the EU is balking.
By Amiel Ungar
First Publish: 6/19/2011, 12:37 PM / Last Update: 6/19/2011, 1:28 PM

The European Union, confronting an economic recession and perhaps a banking crisis as well as a trend towards the phase-out of nuclear energy, is telling the environmental lobby the hard facts. Europe will not go on an economic limb to lead the fight against global warming.

At the UN talks in Bonn, Germany, Europeans said that they would not renew the 1997 Kyoto protocol that is set to expire without the world's major polluters, China and the United States, coming on board as well. The EU  joins Japan, Russia and Canada who have also announced that they will not renew Kyoto.

The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement that made the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change binding.  It puts the onus on developed countries by setting targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European community for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.These amount to reducing an average of five per cent of 1990 levels over the five-year period 2008-2012.

China and the United States made pledges in the 2009 Copenhagen Accord, a continuation of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change that did not include binding conclusions, but have not made moves to implement them. 

The Republican controlled House of Representatives has been hostile to legislation that would be a centerpiece of an attempt to cut back on CO2 emissions.

Representative Michele Bachmann, who has become a major player in the Republican presidential sweepstakes, got tremendous applause this weekend when she pledged that the American consumer, as opposed to UK dwellers,  will be able to purchase any light bulb that he wishes and not only energy-saving fluorescent and LED bulbs.

China is strongly adhering to the equation that if it and other newly industrializing countries such as India are to come on board, the wealthy Western countries must first provide lavish compensation in the form of a green fund. The West also must provide access to proprietary green technologies.

As the wealthy countries no longer consider themselves particularly wealthy, certainly not in relation to China,  the idea of their pumping billions into such a fund is unrealistic. Japan, in its recovery, will not be able to invest serious money in reducing pollution as it has its own nuclear cleanup to consider.

Citing the economic recession in Europe, the British think tank Policy Exchange wants Europe to step back from agreed to programs rather than hastily investing in immature renewable energy technologies. It recommends devoting funds to low carbon research development and a policy that would assure an equal opportunity for competing technologies and a better return on money spent.