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Why won't the Kyoto Protocol die?

By Henry Lamb
web posted January 28, 2002

Why won't the Kyoto Protocol die? More than 18,000 scientists have said there is no human-induced global warming, the United States has withdrawn from the Protocol, and Japan has announced that it will not enforce emissions reductions required to meet its targets. Why, then, do Kyoto advocates insist that the Protocol be ratified and enter into force this year?

In a word, money.

If the U.N.'s climate change initiative was ever motivated by a desire to affect global climate (and that's a very big if), that motivation changed dramatically in the mid-1990s, as independent science continued to pile up convincing evidence that global climate was not significantly affected by human activity, and while the mechanisms for almost incomprehensible cash flows were beginning to take shape: Joint Implementation (JI); Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM), and Certified Emissions Reduction (CER).

The term "emissions trading" has been used in press reports and U.N. press releases, but few people grasp the magnitude of a global trading regime, or the power that the administrative agency would hold over industry and governments alike.

To understand why the U.N. is unwilling to abandon Kyoto, realize that the U.N. would be the top dog in the administration of the trading regime. What this means might be better understood with an over-simplified example of how the trading scheme might work.

First, a government authority (the U.N.) would impose a limit, or "cap" on the quantity of carbon dioxide (C02) emissions (measured in metric-tonnes), that could be released into the atmosphere by each nation, which, in turn, would set the cap for each target industry - say, for example, the electricity generating industry. The cap would be calculated by government, to achieve the emissions target established by the Kyoto Protocol. The U.S. target is 7 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2112.

Next, each electricity generator would be analyzed to determine the quantity of C02 emissions it released in relation to its electricity output. Then government would arbitrarily assign a cap to each generator that must be met by a time certain, under pain of financial penalty- or worse.

Government would then establish a bureaucracy to measure C02 reductions, and issue Certified Emission Reductions certificates (CERs).

Suppose, for example, a coal-fired generator produced 50MW of power and produced 100 tonnes of carbon emissions per year. The government declares that this plant must reduce its emissions to 90 tonnes per year. By switching to natural gas, which requires substantial capital outlay, this same plant might produce the same 50MW of power, but reduce its emissions to 75 tonnes of carbon - thus meeting its cap and qualifying for 15 additional CERs.

In another country, another coal-fired generator produces 50 MW of power and produces 100 tonnes of carbon emissions per year. Instead of investing the capital to convert to natural gas, the second plant may choose to buy 10 CERs from the first company and continue producing 100 tonnes of emissions each year. The seller and the buyer negotiate a price, thereby creating a "market" for hot air - denominated in tonnes of carbon emissions.

Non-emitting electricity generators would be eligible to sell CERs at the same rate as other generators. A wind farm that produced 50MW of electricity would have 90 CERs to sell. By investing heavily in natural gas, wind and solar energy sources, all of which are low, or non-carbon-emitting energy sources, corporations such as Enron, BP and Shell, expect government to provide enormous stocks of CERs which they could sell on the open market.

Nuclear energy sources, which produce no carbon emissions, would not qualify for the program, because Kyoto promoters arbitrarily excluded them.

The global warming industry created by the Kyoto Protocol would administer the program world wide. This scheme would generate massive cash flows, from which bureaucrats (the U.N. and national governments) could extract taxes, commissions, and administration fees. Increased electricity costs would be passed on to the consumer and would not affect corporate profits.

Money, or the promise of it, drives the Kyoto Protocol and the global warming industry it has spawned. No one believes that the Kyoto targets can be met, nor that even if they were met, that it would have any significant effect on the climate. It is the money, pure and simple.

It can be extremely profitable to sell hot air, especially when mandated by the government. Some of the largest corporations in the world are heavily invested in the Kyoto Protocol as the legal authority for government to assign economic value to hot air. The pursuit of profits, with the U.N. directing the cash flow, overwhelmed whatever altruistic motivations may have been present at the beginning. The money prize is why conflicting science is no longer allowed at U.N. negotiations.

The U.N., foundations, and many of the corporations that fund them, have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in non-government organizations to promote the Kyoto Protocol and keep the global warming issue hot. The Enron disaster, which will ultimately be measured in the billions, is but one entity in a global con-game manufactured on the pretext of protecting the environment.

Henry Lamb is the executive vice president of the Environmental Conservation Organization, and chairman of Sovereignty International.

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