NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Good Bye, Kyoto Protocols

March 30, 2001

The Kyoto Protocols have been pronounced dead by most observers, due to the opposition of President Bush. It's just as well, because negotiations broke down at the conclusion of the son-of-Kyoto conference on climate change in the Hague last November.

The Kyoto Protocols, drafted but not ratified three years ago, would have required industrialized nations to reduce their emissions of so-called greenhouse gases, principally carbon dioxide (CO2). It would have allowed countries to meet the goals by using carbon sinks -- such things as planting new trees, which lock up CO2 as they grow -- emissions trading, and credits for nations that invested in clean-energy projects in poorer countries. However, it did not spell out limits on their use, which the Hague meeting was supposed to determine.

Observers say Europeans were intent on severely restricting the use of sinks and trading. Their agenda included gaining an economic edge over the United States. Without sinks and trading, the United States could only meet the Kyoto targets by sharply increasing fossil fuel prices. The results would be disastrous:

  • Gasoline, by reliable estimates, would rise more than 50 cents per gallon.
  • The cost of running industrial plants, not to mention energy-hungry computers, would soar.
  • The growth of Gross Domestic Product in the United States would be cut by more than half as businesses moved offshore to escape the higher costs.
  • The Department of Energy estimated GDP could drop by four percentage points, plunging the United States into a recession.

Thus, the Hague meeting was doomed from the start. If the Europeans are as fiercely committed to reducing emissions as they say they are, they can do it themselves. Meanwhile, the United States can plant more forests, continue to reduce pollution, and put in place more "no-regrets" policies of conservation and deregulation.

Source: James K. Glassman, "Forget Kyoto," American Enterprise Institute, January 2001.


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