- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 20, 2007

With the release of the latest United Nations report on climate change, the time is appropriate to revisit what should be done about man-made global warming emissions. Reports are circulating that new U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will call an emergency climate summit later this year. This is a welcome development.

The most well known mechanism for addressing global climate change is the Kyoto Protocol, the international treaty overseen by the United Nations. The calls for an emergency summit strike as a tacit admission that, despite the treaty’s good intentions, the present approach is incapable of realizing its goals.

The problem is the treaty calls for too much economic pain in exchange for too little environmental gain. Even if the industrialized nations such as the United States, the European Union and Australia reduce their emissions abruptly, fast-growing developing nations such as China, India and Brazil will overwhelm these efforts with emissions of their own.

For example, China is set to surpass the United States as the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases in just a few years. And unless steps are taken now, the Chinese will be using energy much less efficiently — and thus with much greater environmental harm — than Americans, Australians and Europeans.

The United Nations’ Yvo de Boer, who heads its efforts to tackle climate change, in November admitted the nature of the problem. Despite whatever concerns the fast-growing poor nations might have about climate change, “it was also clear that poverty eradication and economic growth were the overriding concerns for developing countries.” And if these countries will soon be emitting at developed-world levels, the current Kyoto Protocol paradigm is insufficient to address the problem because developing countries have no targets under the Protocol.

It is now time for a new direction on climate change. But what would such a direction look like? Fortunately, the U.N.’s Mr. Ban is from a nation, South Korea, that has been participating in a forward-looking project to address climate change and development concerns. That effort could serve as a new framework for tackling global climate and emissions issues.

The Asia Pacific Partnership for Clean Development and Climate (AP6) emerged in late 2005 in response to calls for more action on climate change. Six major nations — the United States, China, India, South Korea, Japan and Australia — are collaborating to ensure environmentally sensitive economic growth. These countries account for more than 50 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and half of the world’s population.

So far, representatives from the six nations have agreed to more than 100 projects that focus on technology transfer. These projects will lead to increased energy efficiency and reduced emissions of all types, including CO2. Such steps are critical to ensuring green economic growth.

China and India are on track to build hundreds of new coal-fired power plants to meet their future electricity needs. But the current technology used by these rising giants is anywhere from 4 to 10 times dirtier than technology available in the United States, Australia, Japan and South Korea.

Use of the most efficient clean coal, natural gas, nuclear, geo-thermal or other generation technologies can dramatically reduce the environmental footprint of robust economic growth. But these technologies will be adopted only if these countries work together under a realistic framework.

The virtue of the AP6 approach is it acknowledges that poor nations will insist on robust economic growth, powered by cheap and reliable energy sources. Once AP6 begins to demonstrate success in transferring cleaner, less emitting technologies, it will be time to consider broadening its membership to include fast-growing nations such as Brazil, Mexico and Indonesia. Eventually others need to be included in a comprehensive approach to climate issues such as Europe and Russia. The AP6 partners can lead the push for a new framework, one with a realistic chance of succeeding in its aims of ensuring clean growth and development.

The U.N.’s secretary-general understands the limits of the present framework. And his representative on climate change admits it fails to address adequately the concerns of poor nations. Now is not the time to extend the Kyoto framework. Instead the U.N. should consider a new framework that incorporates the insights and realities of the AP6 model.

All that is needed is leadership. President Bush and Australian Prime Minister John Howard could step forward and push for these changes. The future of a thriving global economy and global environment hang in the balance.

Alan Oxley is chairman of World Growth and former chairman of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), precursor to the World Trade Organization.


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