Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Kyoto Protocol - Conspicuous by Our Absence

One of the most important cooperative agreements ever negotiated in history is getting kicked off tomorrow without the world's largest player -- the United States. The Kyoto Protocol takes effect on February 16th, binding many countries of the world in the common cause of avoiding environmental disaster:

For many environmentalists, Feb.16 will be a day to pop open a bottle of champagne as the Kyoto Protocol, the first significant international accord created to mitigate global warming, finally takes effect.

The one important guest missing from the celebration will be the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases - the United States. Although the United States signed the 1997 Kyoto Protocol during former President Bill Clinton's administration, in 2001, Congress decided not to ratify the agreement. Despite the absence of the United States, however, environmental leaders around the world are in high spirits.

...Although the Kyoto [Protocol] targets seem small, when one considers how quickly carbon emissions have increased since 1990, over 20 percent in the United States - an undertaking to reduce even five percent from 1990 levels is huge, Rosencranz said. "And it's a beginning: like Confucius said, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."...

As with most progressive agreements and legislation, the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol by the U.S. was, for the most part, scuttled by Washington representatives of affected big businesses. Is the Kyoto Protocol perfect? No. But what it does is put the onus on the most egregious of polluting nations to clean up their acts.

Once again, in its infinite wisdom, the U.S. government chooses to take the path of least resistance. Once again, the U.S. government shows its hubris before the world.