Consequences of the 2008 US elections for America's climate change policy, Canada, the world

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Consequences of the 2008 US elections for America's climate change policy, Canada, the world Powered By Docstoc
					John Kirton


Consequences of the
2008 US elections
for America’s climate
change policy, Canada,
and the world
On 28 June 1979, at the group of seven summit, the leaders of the world’s
most powerful countries declared: “We need to expand alternative sources of
energy, especially those which help to prevent further pollution, particularly
increases of carbon dioxide and sulfur oxides in the atmosphere.” They thus
acknowledged the need to halt immediately, at 1979 levels, the concentration
of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In the following five years, they and
their developed country partners moved in this direction, as their CO2
emissions steadily declined.1 The G7 consensus came at the initiative of
America’s Democratic President Jimmy Carter, supported by Canada’s Joe
Clark. This far-reaching consensus was driven in part by oil shortages, prices
rising to historic highs, and economic growth falling to new lows.


John Kirton is associate professor of political science at the University of Toronto, where he
also is director of the G8 Research Group. He has written or edited numerous books, notably
on Canadian foreign policy and G7/G8 summits.
1 “Global energy security,” Sustainable Energy Development Centre, 2006, 48.



                                          | International Journal | Winter 2008-09 | 153 |
| John Kirton |



     Eighteen years later, on 25 July 1997, the US senate passed the Byrd-
Hagel resolution by 95 to 0. It stated that the senate would not ratify any
treaty signed at Kyoto by Democratic President Bill Clinton and his vice-
president, Al Gore, if it would “impose binding limits” on the industrialized
countries but not on developing countries within the same compliance
period and if it “would result in serious economic harm to the economy of
the United States.” At the time, the price of oil was close to historic lows and
American economic growth was high.
     This is the range of choice in America’s international climate change
policy under Democratic presidents and their congress. Whether President
Barack Obama’s policy will be more like Carter’s or Clinton’s matters much
for Canada. In the Conservative party’s 2006 platform, Prime Minister
Stephen Harper promised to attack climate change “in concert with the
major industrial natio
				
DOCUMENT INFO
Description: This is the range of choice in America's international climate change policy under Democratic presidents and their congress. Whether President Barack Obama's policy will be more like Carter's or [Bill Clinton]'s matters much for Canada. In the Conservative party's 2006 platform, Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised to attack climate change "in concert with the major industrial nations in the world." He chose climate change as a priority for the G 8 summit in Hunts ville, Ontario, in June 2010 - the first following the likely death ofthe Kyoto regime, and the first opportunity for global leaders to replace it with an effective one. In the autumn 2008 election campaign Harper again displayed his internationally oriented cooperative approach, promising to deal with climate change through a cap-and-trade system embracing Canada, the United States, and Mexico, hitherto unconstrained by the Kyoto regime.As president, Obama will probably say "yes" to Canada and seek to create an effective climate change regime for North America. For the first time it will bind Canada, the US, and Mexico to control their carbon emissions and do more for the global ecology than they could on their own. Obama is driven by his campaign promise to move aggressively on climate change and to make the NAFTA regime do more for the environment. He has reaffirmed his commitments and appointed many climate-committed architects of the initial NAFTA trade-environment regime as senior members of his team. Obama's choice of a cap-and-trade system as the centrepiece of his climate plan and his impressive popularity in Canada will make it easy for Harper to achieve a far-reaching regional deal. This rapid start on an effective regional regime could form the basis of a global "beyond Kyoto" framework.The third lesson is that the UN's Kyoto approach was fundamentally flawed. It was inspired by a false analogy from the ozone negotiations, which relied upon conventions, followed by protocols and quantitative
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