Leading article: Technology offers no quick fix

Share

The true significance of the climate-change pact signed this week by America, Australia and four Asian countries, is not so much that it bypasses the existing Kyoto protocol, as that it makes explicit the two completely contrasting approaches to tackling global warming

The received wisdom among most of the world community (and nearly all environmentalists) has been that the former, exemplified by the compulsory cuts in emissions mandated by the Kyoto treaty, is the only way forward. Now some of the world's leading nations have enshrined an entirely different path in a formal international agreement, claiming in essence that new technology can deliver the lower emissions the world must have if the climate is to remain stable without painful sacrifices having to be made by their industries and their citizens.

Can it? The immediate answer is, nobody knows. Certainly, it is unclear what level of emissions reductions the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, with its promotion of low-carbon technologies, can itself deliver. The new agreement is long on vision but short on detail. But what about the principle?

An increasing number of politicians are attracted to technological fixes because they are aware that getting democratic nations to tighten their belts will prove very difficult. If new technology can do the job instead, without forcing people to drive their cars less or pay a lot more for their central heating, hey presto, the problem is solved.

But once again, can it? Low-carbon technology will be essential in bringing about future emissions cuts from China, say, which is currently building new coal-fired power stations, but the key point about the new treaty is that the approach is entirely voluntary. There are no mandatory targets, so the amount of CO 2 reduction it provides for any given country will be simply what that country's politicians feel comfortable with - not what climate stability demands. And politicians, as we have seen, are governed by the exigencies of the next election - by the short term.

The future of the earth's climate has to be governed by long-term considerations. For all the political difficulty of the belt-tightening approach of Kyoto and its mandatory targets for cutting CO 2, it cannot just be abandoned in favour of letting countries do what they feel like. There will have to be targets set by science. America's new climate pact may be a useful addition to the fight against global warming - we will have to wait and see - but it is not the way forward for the world.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have previous experience...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Administrator

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Shia LaBeouf is one of Brad Pitt's favourite actors in the world ever, apparently  

Shia LaBeouf to Luis Suárez: Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Ellen E Jones
Gwyneth Paltrow and Coldplay's Chris Martin “consciously uncoupled” in March  

My best and worst stories of 2014

Simmy Richman
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015