The road to planetary hell

John Bennett writes that only four industrialized countries are having difficulty meeting their greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets: Japan, Norway, Switzerland, and Canada; the others "intend to honour their international commitments" (letter, 25 May 2006).

At present, few signatories to the Kyoto protocol want to admit that they will be unable to meet their Kyoto targets. With the exception of almost all countries in Eastern Europe, the Former Soviet Union, and a few minor emitters such as Belgium, Denmark, and Luxembourg, most Annex B signatories to the Kyoto protocol have seen their carbon emissions increase since 1990. The two major exceptions are Germany (whose decline in emissions can be traced to the reunification of the country coupled with the collapse of the East German economy) and the UK (whose decline in emissions was caused by the massive switch from coal to natural gas for power generation).

Those Annex B countries with emissions levels higher than their 1990 levels can be expected to face serious challenges attempting to honour their international commitments. Many that planned to switch from coal to natural gas to meet their emissions targets may need to depend on natural gas supplies from unreliable or unstable sources and compete with countries such as the United States for supplies of liquefied natural gas. Without secure supplies of natural gas, reliance on coal will continue, making it next to impossible to meet national Kyoto targets.

Proof, if ever it was needed, that the road to planetary hell is paved with honourable intentions.

Submitted to Globe and Mail 25 May 2006 - Unpublished