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Tuesday, May 06, 2003

The Kyoto Protocol > The EU

Many people are suprised that I'm not for the Kyoto protocal. Despite the fact that I generally tend to think that environmental restrictions on corporations are, in both theory and practice, something which a government ought to be obligated to impliment, the Kyoto accords are absolutely ridiculous.

Under the agreement there is one issue which, on its own, renders the entire thing ineffective, namely developing countries. If the treaty isn't just going to be developed countries screwing smaller, less wealthy ones to treat their conscience about raping the environment for hundreds of years it has to allow for the fact that the less technological a nation is, the more pollution it will generate. The simple fact is that technologies like coal burning (the most cost-effective types of energy production) put out more greenhouse gasses than nuclear, wind or hydroelectric (try telling Subsaharan Africa to use all their available water to produce power...) which are more expensive and less pollution intensive, for the type of waste with which the treaty was principally concerned.

The original treaty, if I recall, allowed a window within which so-called third world countries would be exempt from any pollution standards and a credit system and methods for proliferation of pollution reduction technology which they could opt into. Now, consider the actual effect of having the treaty binding to national entities but not corporations - suddenly, you simply have the manufacturing base from "developed" nations moving into "developing" nations to pollute all they want. The net change in greenhouse emissions may actually rise, since most of the first-world nations have at least cursory anti-pollution standards in place which are just out-and-out eliminated under this plan. At best, companies will continue to pollute at their current levels rendering the whole practice completely ineffective.

On top of this, though, after a certain period of time the countries will be considered, for all intents and purposes, "developed" due to their booming industrial infrastructure. Suddenly Sudan* is bound under this treaty like any other signatory, and the production base relocates en masse. This creates two problems: first, if this actually happens, the countries suddenly have all the major manufacturing firms and the anticillary thereto unemployed - a massive blow to any economy. Second, it gives a huge incentive for corporations functioning within the country to make sure it never really gets its act together. If it were to do this, it could start doing crazy things like taxing the companies and, god forbid, enforcing the current laws. One need not look far to see how much companies care about local laws when it inhibits productivity with things like "labor laws." Hence there is a massive drive to keep third world countries from developing, on top of the current benefits corporations gain from having ineffective or corrupt governments in tax havens.

I do find it funny on a number of levels that the EU, one of the most protectionist sectors, wants this treaty made into international law (as much as that means to many people, reguardless) insofar as they are the ones who almost certainly lose out huge as a result. On some days I question if maybe the EU isn't trying to make themselves look like some degree of international joke. But when it comes to economic policies, they have a lot of potential to act as a counterbalance to the post-cold war US hedgemon, despite all attempts to completely squander this shining opportunity.

* = Maybe I should pitch this idea to NBC as a sitcom. You could take Brooke Shields and put her in the middle of a genocidal civil war in Africa, and have her experience dating and the snappy social life of an American in ethnic strife... okay, maybe not.

cranked out at 2:46 PM | |

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