Associate Professor of International Relations in the Department of Government at the University of Maryland, College Park, Miranda Schreurs, discussed U.S. comparative environmental energy politics and the Kyoto Protocol on Friday, Feb. 13. With the heated debate on global warming ensuing, Schreurs discussed the politics of emissions standards, environmental policy and related topics – issues that could negatively affect the environment of the future. Her lecture was based on information from her recently published manuscript “Environmental Politics in Japan, Germany and the United States.” “Global climate change is a problem that the international community must work together to address. The U.S. decision to pull out of the Kyoto Protocol has sent an unfortunate message to the international community suggesting a lack of real concern with this issue in the U.S.,” she said. “In comparison, the European Union and Japan have ratified the agreement and are introducing a wide array of policies and measures aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the short term,” Schreurs said. “In my eyes the commitment they are showing to reducing their emissions sends a far more positive and important message to developing countries than does the U.S. commitment.”The Kyoto Protocol, often referred to as the Global Climate Treaty, is the final product of the 1997 negotiations of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. This commitment of developed nations to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide and methane – was the initial step of the international community to preventing further man-made interference with the climate, according to the Protocol.”At the time I began research for this book, I felt that there was not enough attention being given to what the world’s biggest economies are or are not doing to reduce their ecological footprints,” Schreurs said.Since President George W. Bush refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol in March 2001, Russia is currently spotlighted, according to Schreurs. “If Russia signs the agreement it will become international law and then all of the Kyoto Protocol mechanisms will go into effect and the U.S. would be on the outside of the agreement,” Schreurs said. “This could prove a disadvantage to U.S. firms who might be left out of the best ‘clean-up deals’ in developing countries.”However, Schreurs noted that the future of the Kyoto Protocols are still uncertain. “If Russia chooses not to sign Kyoto then it is nothing more than a piece of paper,” she said.”On the other hand, European and Japanese firms, which will be pressured to lower their own emissions, may feel that U.S. firms will gain real competitive advantage because they will not be obliged to make the kind of emissions cuts expected of E.U. and Japanese companies,” Schreurs said. “This could lead to trade frictions as well.”The Kyoto Protocol mechanisms that Schreurs refers to would allow industrialized countries to receive credit toward their emission reductions through ‘clean-up’ projects and more significantly, allow an international trade of emission credit.”The talk was interesting but not very penetrating as far as the political side of the issue went,” Anthropology Professor Thomas Gibbon said. “The point about the Green Party in Germany being able to acquire a strategic position in See KYOTO, Page 4Continued from Page 3 the parliament was telling. However, what was unsaid was how undemocratic the American political system has become,” he continued.”Both parties rely on wealthy donors and corporate lobbyists to dictate the terms of new legislation.,” Gibbon said. “The huge power of the oil and automobile lobbies in this country has made any thinking about alternative forms of transportation and energy almost impossible, and has committed us to a foreign policy where we must defend pipelines all across west and central Asia for the indefinite future.”Gibson holds the position of Co-Chair of the Cluster on Global Studies with Earth and Environmental Science Professor Udo Fehn. In this case, the term “cluster,” does not refer to the mini-minors required for undergraduates, but rather a program with the University Committee on Interdisciplinary Studies focused more on university faculty. President of Grassroots Andrew Hall stated that, although he believes that a environmental consciousness is growing, both on campus and nationally, the issues and policies regarding the ecological effects of excess consumption are similarly growing in complexity.”The haunting consequence of the situation [Professor Schreurs] described is the ever present and ever growing tidal wave of third world development which threatens to inundate the capacity of global environmental systems,” he said. “It would take four planet earths for everyone in the world to live the lifestyle of North Americans. The concern is not greenhouse gas emissions but simple global resource consumption. By pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol I think our country sent an unfortunate message to developing world that immediate profits come before the longevity of life on this planet.”Welzer can be reached at email@example.com.
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