In This Review

The Collapse of the Kyoto Protocol and the Struggle to Slow Global Warming

The Collapse of the Kyoto Protocol and the Struggle to Slow Global Warming
By David G. Victor
169 pp, Princeton University Press, 2001
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In 1997, 38 relatively rich nations agreed at Kyoto to reduce by 2012 their greenhouse gas emissions, mainly carbon dioxide from fossil fuels, to below 1990 levels. This short and closely reasoned book argues persuasively that this plan is deeply flawed on four counts. First, it requires allocating $2 trillion in emission rights among and within nations, a highly politically charged task. Second, it would transfer billions of dollars from the United States to Russia and Ukraine, funds that would then likely find their way to wealthy oligarchs. Third, it fails to engage developing countries -- whose cooperation in restraining emissions is essential -- and it cannot easily be adapted to do so. Fourth, it will likely be impossible to enforce the assigned emission limits within some countries: Russia and Ukraine again come to mind, as do others. Finally, the United States does not have enough time to meet its target of 93 percent of 1990 emissions (a 30 percent reduction from projected 2010 levels) without producing a major economic downturn. The author urges instead a new architecture and a fundamental renegotiation of the protocol. He supports taxes on emissions, which would encourage all emitters to alter their behavior, along with national targets and internationally coordinated measures for greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide. A provocative analysis, but the proposed solution needs much more work.