article_copenhagen

By Trent McCandless

Later this year Copenhagen will host the final meeting on international climate policy at the government level before declaring the Copenhagen Protocol—a follow up to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2012.

The summit will focus on what the “global community” can do to reduce carbon emissions—but the real agenda is to have the United States sign on, and ratify, the Protocol which they refused to do in 1997. The United States had determined that the proposed restrictions were too costly and therefore did not ratify the Protocol which they had been so active in formulating.

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Policy makers, including President Bush, were fearful that many large industrial companies would face massive financial penalties and that the Protocol would cause an increase in taxes while limiting industrial growth. The cost of ratifying the Protocol was simply not worth the short term gains.

If the Copenhagen Protocol is just a new name on the same “cap and trade” product that resulted from the Kyoto Protocol then we’ll find many nations regulating a handful of industrialized nations (Kyoto was ratified by 141 nations but only limited emissions from 35 industrialized countries). Developing countries like China and India were excluded from the stringent regulations proposed by Kyoto to give them “time to catch up” with the rest of the industrialized world.

Another flaw lamented by the Bush administration was that the Kyoto Protocol allowed for many countries, like Japan and several members of the European Union, to buy “credits” from Russia and other countries that had spare “credits” as a result of decreased industrial output.

“They are going to take credit for sagging economies and flat populations,” said James L. Connaughton, former chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

The Copenhagen Protocol will need to address these major economic concerns if the United States is expected to ratify the new regulations. At a time where increased government involvement has caused a tumultuous backlash from the American people many Americans seem unconvinced that more restrictions and increased government involvement is what Americas free-market needs right now.

These concerns haven’t gone unnoticed by the United Nations.

“The Copenhagen climate change talks in December will come at a difficult moment. The timing couldn’t really be worse for the Obama administration… If need be, we should be prepared to give them more time – not to let them off the hook and escape their responsibilities…” said Stephen Byers, co-chairman of the International Climate Change Taskforce.

The cost of these additional regulations could be crippling to the American economy—so do we go for broke and do what’s best for the global environment, or postpone our commitment until we can responsibly commit to a program after reestablishing the value of our currency and mitigating our financial obligations to other countries?