Excuse me for sounding American, but pulling out of the Kyoto Accords in late March is the best thing President George W. Bush has done. The Accords, established in 1997 but never ratified by the United States for various political reasons, seek to reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases to five per cent below 1990 levels by the year 2012. Although 180 nations have signed the accords, most of the reductions will be borne by 30 industrialized nations by cutting their use of fossil fuels to levels incompatible with sustained industrial activity and economic viability.
As they stand now, the accords effectively exempt or partially exempt 160 of the world's developing and industrializing nations. Some of the U.S.'s biggest trading partners, including China, India and Brazil could continue to pollute while the U.S., U.K., and most of Western Europe would be forced to reduce emissions. For exempt nations, this disparity would cause a short-term influx of industry forced out of accord countries for economic or environmental reasons. At best, pollution is shifted from the U.S. to other parts of the world; at worst, this brings entire communities to economic reliance upon foreign industry and unemployment to the States. As President Bush points out, what's needed is a global solution to a global problem, not a solution that excludes most of the world.
Further, the Accords provide no means of enforcement or punishment of those who do not comply. The U.S. will not willingly lose their economic advantage for the sake of honour, nor will exempt nations plant carbon-sink trees when their people have more important priorities. Trade sanctions are not a viable option either. The World Trade Organization does not permit Kyoto as a justification for sanctions and as many have pointed out, enforcing the Kyoto Accords in any practical manner would transform the Kyoto Secretariat into a new imperial power.
The solution is not a nebulous feel-good piece of paper. Industrialized nations should use energy more efficiently and continue to support organizations like the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory to develop innovative energy sources. Reducing global climate change by throwing money at developing nations to purchase "emission reduction units," as explicitly permitted by the Accords, is the wrong thing to do. Moving the problem does not encourage better practices in industrialized nations. It will only encourage the future viability of the environmental organizations that lobbied for the Accords in the first place by forcing industry to rebuild in nations more willing to bend to their unfounded demands.
Actually, Bush was wrong about a global solution. Any "solution" to temperature change must exclude most of the world. We have as much power to affect the climate as those wood-burning mammoths did.