23rd May 2019

US-Asia climate deal casts doubt on Kyoto

A new US-Asia agreement on climate change might damage the EU and UN-sponsored Kyoto protocol and has embarrassed the UK presidency, which failed to get Washington on board a climate deal at the recent G8 summit.

The US unveiled the creation of the Asia Pacific Partnership on Development (APPD) on Wednesday night (27 July) bringing together China, India, Japan, South Korea and Australia.

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The group represents 50 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, but the deal is unlikely to include binding reduction targets and will probably focus on the spread of cleaner technology from the US and Australia to developing countries such as China and India instead.

Details are expected to emerge on Thursday and Friday.

US environment chief Jim Connaughton said APPD will "consolidate existing efforts and manage current partnerships", according to the FT.

But Friends of the Earth director Tony Juniper told the Guardian that he fears "this is another attempt to undermine Kyoto and a message to the developing world to buy US technology and not to worry about targets and timetables".

Snub for UK presidency

He added that the move is a "a poke in the eye for Tony Blair [the UK prime minister and EU president]", who tried and failed to get his Iraq ally president George Bush to agree to a climate change pact at the G8 summit in Scotland earlier this month.

The US and Australia - the only two developed countries not in Kyoto - have been cooking up APPD in secret for a year, the Times reports.

The deal seems to have taken Brussels and London by surprise, with the UK's environment ministry issuing a cautious "welcome" last night, while stressing that "the announcement from Australia and others certainly does not replace the Kyoto process".

Australia sees things differently however.

"It is quite clear that the Kyoto protocol won't get the world to where it wants to go. We have got to find something that works better. We need to develop technologies which can be developed in Australia and exported around the world - but it also shows that what we're doing now, under the Kyoto protocol, is entirely ineffective", Australian environment minister Ian Campbell told the Guardian.

"Anyone who tells you that the Kyoto protocol, or signing the Kyoto protocol is the answer, doesn't understand the question", he added.

Kyoto could suffer

Kyoto, which aims at trimming greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2012, has been criticised in the past for failing to include rapidly developing countries such as China, Brazil and South Africa in its scope and for having potentially damaging economic side-effects.

The UN wants to bring developing countries into the Kyoto fold after 2012, but the Times says that the APPD arrangement might mean China and India will opt to stay out.

The EU has given Kyoto its full backing, kicking off an emissions trading scheme in January that embraces all 25 member states, nine of which have already set up CO2 stock exchanges or registries.

Member states can also earn "carbon credits" by exporting clean technology to developing countries in a parallel to the US-sponsored scheme.

Brussels estimates that it will cost the bloc just €3.7 billion, less than 0.1 percent of the EU's GDP, to meet its Kyoto goal.

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