clear the air

What Does Your iPod & Kyoto Have in Common?

iPod To understand the deadlock in the debate on global climate change, look no further than your iPod.

The vast majority of the world’s MP3 players are made in China, where the main power source is coal. Manufacturing a single MP3 player releases about 7.7kg of planet-warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

iPods, along with thousands of other goods churned out by Chinese factories, from toys to rolled steel, pose a question that is becoming an issue in the climate-change debate. If a gadget is made in China by an American company and exported and used by consumers from Stockholm to São Paulo should the Chinese government be held responsible for the carbon released in manufacturing it? Present agreements such as Kyoto look at emissions on a country-by-country basis, requiring participating nations to reduce greenhouse gases released within their borders.

In other words, the manufacturing nation pays for the pollution. Many are arguing, however, that the next global climate treaty should take into account a nation’s emissions “consumption.”  

Experts, environmentalists and scientists argue that the emissions are embedded in goods that move around the world through trade.  Therefore if Australia imports iPods from China, Australian’s should share some responsibility for the pollution produced in making them.

In other words, judgment should be based on a “consumer pays” criteria.

Simon Turner

Australia’s Environmental Up-Hill Challenge

The great news is that Australia has ratified the Kyoto protocol and it will come into effect in March 2008.

The less positive news, as announced by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is that Australia will almost certainly fail to meet the modest greenhouse gas emissions target set for it.

Australia is likely to “overshoot” by 1% its target of keeping emissions to no more than 8% above 1990 levels.

The revelation means Australia could have to agree to make even bigger cuts to emissions in the post-Kyoto framework which is currently in the very early stages of negotiation at the UN conference on climate change in Bali.

Australia needs to accept that a big step up will be required under the post-2012 framework. 
The Kyoto targets as they stand are very low compared to the scale of the challenge ahead of us.

Australia must demonstrate how such an energy intensive country, and indeed the worst emitters per capita in the world can retain its prosperity by being smarter and more efficient in industry, in energy efficiency, cleaner fuels and renewable energy. Simon Turner

KYOTO: in Layman’s Terms

With all the talk of the Kyoto Protocol, particularly during Australia’s Federal Election with John Howard belatedly stating that he would ratify this agreement that stems from the 1990’s, and now Prime Minister Kevin Rudd having beaten Howard to it, I thought it would be worth summing up what the differing positions are/have been:

Those that have ratified Kyoto:

Kyoto sets target emissions on the basis that all countries have “common but differentiated responsibilities”.

This is essentially jargon for the idea that rich countries must cut their emissions of greenhouse gases, while poor ones carry on as normal unless the rich world pays for them to clean up their act.  The Kyoto Protocol’s successor is currently being debated in Bali for when it expires in 2012.

Those that haven’t ratified Kyoto:

The United States remains the only first world country not to have ratified Kyoto, following PM Rudd’s signing of the treaty.

President Bush’s implicit message is that binding emissions targets are counter-productive, and that any solution must involve poor countries as well as rich ones.

The US ultimately believes that disseminating green technology is more positive and productive in the long-term.

My belief is that everyone is part of the problem meaning that everyone must be part of the solution. The US is correct in insisting that green technologies must be promoted, but this must occur at the same time as capping emmissions. Whilst I feel that all countries should be required to conform to the same standards (Kyoto does not require this), at present the Kyoto Protocol is the best mechanism with which the global community has to work with.

Therefore, being a signatory to Kyoto will allow Australia more input in ensuring that from 2012 onwards the global mechanism in place is more equitable and more abided by.
Simon Turner