(Angus Reid Global Scan) Eliana Carrillo – In 1998, several countries agreed to the Kyoto Protocol, a proposed amendment to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The agreement commits industrialized nations to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. In February 2005, 141 countries ratified the deal.
The goal of the Kyoto Protocol is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2 per cent from 2008 to 2012. Some theories say that global warming, or climate change, might be the result of human-generated carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
Still, the effectiveness of the Kyoto Protocol has been seriously questioned by the main emitter of greenhouse gases—the United States—which chose not to ratify the deal. In his Jan. 31 State of the Union address, U.S. president George W. Bush declared, “Keeping America competitive requires affordable energy. And here we have a serious problem: America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world. The best way to break this addiction is through technology. Since 2001, we have spent nearly $10 billion to develop cleaner, cheaper, and more reliable alternative energy sources—and we are on the threshold of incredible advances.”
In reality, the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol contemplates economic sanctions for the industrialized nations that do not abide by the rules. Also, it promises an era of economic prosperity to those who are able to develop renewable sources of energy, limit their emissions, and achieve autonomy in the field of energy.
This is the case of Brazil, a pioneer in the use of ethanol extracted from renewable sources, such as sugarcane. One of every four new automobiles in Brazil is fuelled by ethanol. Still, 75 per cent of the carbon dioxide generated in the South American country comes from illegal logging in the Amazon.
World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz recently declared, “The Bank has two important strategies this year—global warming and Africa.” Wolfowitz has praised the “successful experience” of Brazil with ethanol, and is looking into expanding a similar program to Africa.
In recent times, the global political scene appears to be taking a green shade. In July 2005 at the G-8 summit in Perthshire, Scotland, the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States promised to implement a “new dialogue” on climate change, deeming the issue a “serious long-term challenge” for the planet. According to a poll by TNS released by Stanford University, Time and ABC News, 85 per cent of respondents in the U.S. believe global warming will become a serious problem for the world if no action is taken.
Some countries have already begun to experiment with alternative sources of energy. Iceland is a precursor in hydrogen and geothermal energy—the heat contained within the Earth’s core. Germany, Denmark and Spain have adopted wind turbines to generate 10 per cent of their power, according to the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA).
Still, fossil fuels produce 80 per cent of all the energy in the world. The link Bush established between the “addiction to oil” and the dependency on foreign producers has forced him to look into other options. Bush set out his goal “to replace more than 75 per cent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025.” The word “conservation” was not mentioned by the head of state during his State of the Union address.
The eventual reduction of greenhouse gas emissions has more to do with finances than with the environmental conscience of world leaders. The ratification of the Kyoto Protocol could signify a change, but the global economy remains the key player.