Kyoto: The last rites

Where better than the Qatari capital to perform the last rites over the Kyoto Protocol?

The last rites for Kyoto?
Peter C. Glover
On 1 October 2012 14:40

It’s uniquely appropriate that November’s UN Climate Summit – the last before the Kyoto Protocol formally expires on December 31st – is taking place in Doha. In the league of the world’s highest per-capita greenhouse gas emitters, Qatar currently ranks at the very top. Where better than the Qatari capital to perform the last rites over the Kyoto Protocol?

Not that that’s how November’s talks will be sold, you understand. In typical UN double-speak, the Climate Summit secretariat will fashion a form of words suggesting that the Kyoto process is alive and well and merely moving into a ‘new phase’. So why do the terms ‘flogging’ and ‘dead horse’ come to mind?

When the 1997 Kyoto Protocol finally came into force in 2005 its commitments were only ever aspirational. Yes, a few states, notably in Europe, played the game by making voluntary commitments towards carbon cutting targets. It made little difference. The increasingly coal-fired fast-industrializing nations including China, India, and Brazil, all contributed to blowing away prospective gains elsewhere.

Meanwhile the United States, globally reviled for rejecting the unrealistic goals of Kyoto, has, largely due to the impact of switching to (shale) gas, achieved the world’s biggest emission cutting success. Yet European industries are currently increasingly their reliance on cheap imported American coal, with the obvious knock-on effect for EU carbon targets.

Who’d have thought it? 191 states read the political and economic runes wrongly, while the Bush White House alone read them correctly.

In truth, backing the Kyoto ‘horse’ had failure written all over it. The treaty was on life support right from its inception. Hardly surprising given the economic implications for the 37 industrialized states expected to bear the industry-hitting burden of emission cuts while also having to stump up enormous reparations to the non-industrialized world to atone for their sinful ‘polluting’ ways. By the time of the 2009 ‘(another) last chance for the planet’ Copenhagen Summit, the Kyoto ‘horse’ was already looking suspiciously bereft of breath.

So what went wrong?

Well let’s not introduce too many obvious scientific points. Science, that’s real empirical science, hard data et al, not the speculative guesswork variety, has never played too much of a role for the pushers of the climate apocalypse. But for the democratic industrialized nations, it was never going to be easy to explain to electorates why they should be so alarmed as to pitch in an increasing percentage of their wage packet to stem the climbing global mercury.

But it was the abject failure to grasp the economics that was the real blind spot. Bottom line: If the price of saving the planet is more than we can actually afford, then it’s really already beyond saving. Greens and idealists have never understood the facts of economic life.

Pre-Copenhagen, UN Secretary-General told us, “We have just four months to secure the future of our planet.” What the conference ultimately foundered on was the 37 industrialized states balking at handing over a cool $100 billion to the non-industrialised states.

At the same time, polls in the democratic states increasingly reflected growing scepticism at pouring billions of dollars into an anti-carbon campaign to help keep an ‘anticipated’ global temperature rise to below 2 degrees (ah yes, the age-old yearning to control the weather). Why, wondered an increasing number, should the price be so high when the cost of keeping the temperature rise at nil for 15 years had cost us precisely nothing?

And so to Durban 2011, the greatest sham on earth. This time, while the usual Hollywood and liberal suspects showed up swilling their jet-set long haul cocktails, even the leaders of the industrialized nations opted out.

The UN IPCC was again valiant in its attempt to re-ignite public concern. But even their pre-summit report was forced to admit that there was unlikely to be any earth-warming for the next 20 or 30 years. This, according to the IPCC report: “because climate change signals are expected to be relatively small compared to natural climate variability.” Hardly the key message Durban was hoping to hear to ferment international action.

Just for good measure, Donna Laframboise’s The Delinquent Teenager who was Mistaken for the World’s Top Climate Expert exposed the UN IPCC in all its inept, politicized, incoherent, and outright corrupt glory. Anyone who may care to read this devastating critique could only conclude that the real alarm was that anyone could consider this shambolic, dysfunctional, pseudo-scientific oligarchy credible in any way.

Even so, Durban was billed (yet again) as the final chance for the world to defeat climate change. Result: final chance deferred to Doha 2012.

In September government representatives held a round of talks in Bangkok to prepare the ground for Doha. The UN Climate Secretariat insisted that they had “prepared fertile ground” for Qatar. A closer look at what was actually discussed in the Thai capital however reveals yet more classic UN climate double-speak.

With Kyoto finally due to lapse at the end of the year, talk is no longer of immediate binding targets – the whole point of the ‘waiting room’ of the Kyoto Protocol given the alleged imminence of climate catastrophe – but of “extending Kyoto” and setting up a “roadmap for a new legally-binding treaty” to be agreed by 2015 for implementation in 2020. Apocalypse deferred (again) then.

So let’s sum up.

Kyoto failed in its chief goal of achieving legally binding global emission cuts, much as the Bush White House foresaw it would because of its economy-busting potential, mostly for the industrialized nations. The UNIPCC has also been forced to admit that the “natural variations” inherent in climate change means it wildly overstated its case.

What the UNIPCC fails to explain is how those same “natural variations” make claims to climate catastrophe 30 years down the line any more credible.

So here’s the thing that will really distinguish Doha in November. While the climate idealists are busy shifting the Kyoto goalposts, we realists might observe how the last rites are normally administered prior to death – rather than over the stench of a rotting corpse.

The Doha Climate Summit will run from November 26 to December 7 this year.

Peter C Glover is a British writer & author and International Associate Editor for Energy Tribune. For more go to

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