Why Kyoto Used 1990 as a Base Year

I have made this point several times, but the 1990 reference date for Kyoto was not just picked randomly.  In fact, on its face, it was a bit odd for a treaty negotiated in 1997 to use a 1990 base year.   But 1990 allowed signatory countries to claim credit for alot of improvements in CO2 output that had nothing to do with the treaty.  For example, in Germany, 1990 was after unification but before wildly inefficient east German factories had been shut down.  In England, 1990 was just before a concerted effort to substitute North Sea oil and nuclear to shut down Midlands coal use.  In France and Japan, 1990 was the beginning of a period of slow economic growth (and, as an added special bonus, punished the US because it was the beginning of strong economic growth here).

Here is further proof:

In an odd twist on market economics, Europe’s ex-communist states are starting to exploit a new market. Thanks to the Kyoto climate-change agreement, they can, in effect, now make money off the pollution their onetime central planners were willing to tolerate as the price for rapid industrialization and universal employment.

Ukraine, Hungary, the Czech Republic and other countries of the region not exactly renowned for clean air have made or are close to signing deals to sell the rights to emit greenhouse gases, and their main customer is environmentally friendly Japan.

This carbon windfall dropped into Central and East Europe’s lap because the Kyoto Protocol sets 1990 as the reference year for future reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The socialist states at that time were producing gargantuan amounts of CO2 and other gases implicated in global warming from unfiltered coal-fired power plants and factories; when those unprofitable industries withered, countless thousands of workers went on the dole — but the air got cleaner. In the coming years, in line with European Union mandates, would-be members gradually adopted better environmental policies. It’s the difference between the often unspeakably bad air of 1990 and the comparatively clean air of today that allows them to sell "carbon credits" potentially worth billions of euros.

In effect, signatory countries are still making their Kyoto goals with actions that had nothing to do with Kyoto, in this case the modernization and/or shut down of communist-era industry.  This continues the charade that a) Europe is actually making real progress on CO2 emissions, which it is not and b) emissions reductions are cheap.

Update:  Before the treaty, but for which the treaty supporters claim credit by selecting 1990 as the base year, signatory countries had large CO2 reductions due to the forces at work detailed above:

CO2 Emissions Changes, 1990-1995

EU -2.2%
Former Communist -26.1%
Germany -10.7%
UK -6.9%
Japan 7.2%
US 6.4%

Since the treaty was actually signed, from 1997 to 2005, countries that ratified the treaty had emissions rise 21%.  When the treaty was signed in 1997, they signatories knew they had this pool of 1990-1995 emissions reductions to draw on to claim victory.  To this day, this is the only improvement they can show, improvement that occured before the treaty and through steps unrelated, in the main, to CO2 abatement.

  • cfdman

    Which is why (thanks GW) we have not agreed to it, and never will. Kyoto is a charade that the US will never adhere to unless the rules are changed to become more coherent. Another round comes up pretty soon right? Are we working towards a better set of rules, or just abandoning the process all together?

    I vote for abandonement.

  • Isn’t the 600 pound gorilla in the room the government belief that they can tax their way to a solution? Isn’t that rather bureaucratic, lazy and self serving? And also a long shot if the problem is genuinely the greatest crisis facing humanity?

    If we’re going to blow a trillion dollars why not spend it on a Manhatton Project style investment in nuclear fusion technology? Even if the crisis is – and hear me out on this – somewhat exaggerated – wouldn’t that still have benefits in terms of guaranteeing our economies future energy security?

  • Kyoto was not about the environment, or global warming, or climate change. It was designed to hobble the US economy to level the playing field for EU industry and business. The French government tried to block every mitigation proposal put on the table, from nuclear to carbon bio-sinks (trees.) Interesting because France gets about 80% of its power from nuclear, but won’t let anybody else use that strategy to reduce emisssions. If Kyoto was serious as an environmental treaty, it would have considered all and every mitigation strategy available with today’s technology. They didn’t because it wouldn’t hurt the US and keep the third world right where it is now. There is no way China or India could ever hope to progress economically if they had ratified Kyoto.

    The path to a cleaner environment with less polution is the same as the route to reducing health problems and malnurishment in the 3rd world, economic advancement.

  • Somewhat off topic I know but this comment from a Daily Telegraph reader on an article in today’s edition about perfectly encapsulates the climate skeptic stance.

    “To those flat-earthers who comment every time I use the phrase “man-made global warming”, I say this: there are no papers in the scientific journals saying there is no human contribution to climate change, or that it is not happening, only about its extent and the degree to which it should alarm us.”

    This “Flat-earther” would like to point out that all the “evidence” for man-made global warming exists only inside the computer models programmed to find it. These models are so poor that they were unable to predict the cooling which has occurred over the last 9 years. (by the end of this year we will have a new climate trend – trends require 10 years to be officially established). None of the atmospheric conditions predicted by these models have been detected and there is increasing evidence that the figures on which Hanson based his original theory owe more to the poor positioning and maintenance of ground based weather stations than to anything else.

    The cartoon attached (link) sums up you on your “moral high ground” better than anything I could say.

    You can read the original here:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/main.jhtml?xml=/earth/2008/10/02/earthlog102.xml

  • NJ

    Climate Change – Now We Will Pay

    From UK:

    Buried in the small print of the cabinet re-shuffle:

    “…..and a new department spun off with responsibility for energy and climate change – to be headed by Ed Miliband, the former Cabinet Office minister and Brown ally. “

    It’s like a socialist gold mine, a whole new seam of tax opportunities to be mined.

    Prepare for in short order:

    Climate Tax – utility companies to pay tax at 10% of income.
    Carbon Tax – carbon emitters, car companies, car users, airlines, air passengers, shipping, freight, etc., etc. to be billed on a usage basis (like car tax now but so much bigger).
    Climate change off-set tax – Flat rate purchase tax to off-set carbon used in the production of goods.

    You see my climate change alarmist friends this is what happens – look what you’ve done now. Fools.

  • TDK

    “In England, 1990 was just before a concerted effort to substitute North Sea oil and nuclear to shut down Midlands coal use.”

    Not sure this is right. There was a move to gas (North Sea at first). Only Sizewell B was opened after 1990 and that was commissioned well before 1990. Since it was known that the earlier Magnox generators would be going offline soon after this should be seen as a replacement for nuclear rather than coal.

  • Bjarni

    Aren’t you forgetting Russia? In the “documentary” – global warming or global governance it is claimed that the 1990 numbers for Russia consist of the total CO2 emission of the soviet union, therefor Russia has nothing to lose also?
    I would have thought that Russia would have been a bigger CO2 emitter than most of the countries mentioned added together!

  • Benx

    I can assure you the ex-Communist states are no easy winners here. The EU – which we are now part of – has developed new self-destructive and environmentally pointless policies like REACH, CARS21 or the emission trading scheme. The latter is based on mid-1990s when our economies were at the bottom of recession. For example, CEZ, the dominant power generator in the Czech market, has already signed long-term contracts to buy CO2 permits from China to survive economically.