Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Fisking Gavin: Part One

Update One: Embedded links and tidied up grammar, added link to Moscow Times article

I don't read Mark Steyn very much, mainly because he's so predictable. He has an amusing style and isn't one for the Jackson Pollock journalism that Michael Moore specialises in. Now Gavin Sheridan has penned a great philippic against Steyn's recent article labeling European policy-makers as "girly-men".

I feel like throwing a few sun-dried tomatoes, so I'll fisk the fisking in my own steak and potatoes style. Given a lack of time this week, I'll do this in a few stages, starting with a narrowly targeted cruise missile, with the "shock and awe" and ground war to follow.

"...a quick look at the signatories (PDF), the numbers of governments that are attempting to implement the Protocol"

Humbly begging your pardon sir, but that's the wrong document. What you've got there lists the countries who've ratified not the Kyoto Protocol but the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiated at Rio in 1992. Note that the US and Russian Federation are both listed as having executed it in the early nineties, years before Kyoto was drafted. The Kyoto Protocol is an amendment to the UNFCCC and the status of the signatories are listed here:

Kyoto becomes binding when it takes its place (above national law in the EU, as part of Federal law following approval of the US Senate). According to Article 25-1 of the Kyoto Protocol (see page 19), for this to happen:
"not less than 55 Parties to the Convention, incorporating Parties included in Annex I which
accounted in total for at least 55 per cent of the total carbon dioxide emissions for 1990 of the Parties included in Annex I, have deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance,approval or accession."
So, as it stands, only Russia or America have the voting weight to put the treaty over the finishing line.

Only the Annex I (industrial) countries have anything substantive to implement under the Protocol. Of them, the USA isn't signing. Russia is unlikely to. Australia is using easy and ineffective offsets such as new tree planting. Canada has also fudged through accounting for its energy exports and is now coming under immense pressure from industry, especially in energy, to withdraw.

All of these countries probably have either little to lose or some gains to make from climate change; as President Putin has said "We could spend less on fur coats and the grain harvests would go up".

I'll go out on a limb here and forecast that the only movement we are likely to see will be in the regional and national agreements, like the EU emissions-trading system, the proposed McCain-Lieberman bill or New England initiatives at the state level in the US.

If Russia does sign up, which I think is frankly unlikely, it will only be in exchange for concessions in the only area in which the Europeans do have the status of a global power, namely trade. So unless WTO membership is on the cards as a quid pro quo, I don't think the economics for Russia are compelling, given its status as an energy exporter and its consolidating economic recovery. Trying to hike energy gas prices fivefold in a country where winter temperatures are minus thirty Celsius certainly qualifies as what Sir Humphrey Appleby would call "a brave decision".