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U.S. Fears the Worst With Emission Cuts

April 3, 2008

At a United Nations climate conference, negotiators from the U.S. expressed some major concerns that rapid emission cuts intended to fight global warming might send the economy into a state of shock.

The United Nations talks launched this week in Thailand, and are designed to further propel a new pact for the end of 2009 to prevent a future environmental disaster.

The proposal from the European Union directs industrialized countries to cut emissions of greenhouse gases to 40 percent by 2020, which would mean a 25% drop in a 30 year period, since 1990. Proponents of this plan argue that a pact such as this one will promote economic growth through clean technology and other new industries.

The U.S., which remains one of the top polluters in the world, has rejected these mandatory reductions, like the kind agreed to under the Kyoto Protocol, repeatedly.

Harlan Watson, head of the U.S. delegation in Bangkok said, “If you push the globe into recession, it certainly isn’t going to help the developing world. Exports go down, and many of the developing countries of course are heavily dependent on exports. So there’s a lot of issues which need to be fleshed out … so people understand the real world.”

Other nations and proponents of the plan know that these emissions cuts will have a high cost, but will be much better in the long run. The climate chief of the U.N., Yvo de Boer believes that businesses are standing by for these guidelines in order to plan their investments. He said, “The current economic uncertainty makes it all the more important for governments to provide clarity on where they intend to go with this issue.”

Governments need time to plan for such cuts, as Japan recently estimated it would cost $500 billion to cut their emissions 11 percent over the next 10 years.

The debate continues when World Growth, a pro-business group, claims that such a rapid climate change would be more harmful than positive. “Immediate and substantial cuts in emissions will rapidly translate into reduced access to energy, lower economic growth and a reduced capacity to roll back poverty,” the group said.

Delegates from poorer nations, on the other side of the battle think that some of these fears are just attempts to avoid action. They think that the negative impacts of global warming, like skyrocketing food prices could be avoided with some action.

The whole talk-process between the 163 countries involved should last 21 months, and should conclude with a new climate change pact to replace the nearly expired Kyoto Protocol.

Andrej Kranc, secretary of Slovenia’s Environment Ministry is concerned that the economy will become a major part of the discussions. He said, “It could divert policy makers’ attention from climate change to these problems, of course, and it would be a problem.” This has happened in the past.

And since these talks happen to coincide with financial difficulties in the U.S., it may happen again. The government reported this week that orders to U.S. factories fell for the second month in a row, which only reinforced the fear that the country is already in recession.

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