The Cancun crack-up

A more realistic view came from the Japanese, who said they would not sign on to any successor to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which is set to expire in 2012. We remember a visit to our offices in the late 1990s from a Japanese cabinet member who said that Japan was prepared to see as much as 0.5% shaved annually from GDP growth to combat global warming. More than a decade of economic anemia later, such a promise, for such a goal, would be politically preposterous.

Russia and Canada have also indicated that they would be reluctant to sign a Kyoto re-do unless its commitments extend to all states, rather than merely to the guilty rich nations bound by the original pact. With China now the world’s leading producer of greenhouse gases and India’s emissions rising rapidly, they’re right to be reluctant. But poorer countries are equally reluctant to sign agreements that would slow their economic development with environmental regulations. They’re right too.