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December 8, 2005 2:00 am
A group of influential US economists yesterday urged President George W. Bush to drop his opposition to mandatory cuts in carbon emissions, saying it would cost just 1 per cent of gross national product.
The 25 economists, including three Nobel laureates and a former member of the President's Council of Economic Advisers, said therising costs of inaction on global warming, blamed for an increase in weatherdamage and a loss of agric-ultural productivity, vastly outweighed the small costof action.
Geoffrey Heal, of the Columbia Business School, told the Financial Times: "The cost of implementing the Kyoto protocol [which requires rich countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions] is about 1 per cent of GNP. That is about one or two quarters of growth."
They said market-based mechanisms, such as setting limits on the amount of carbon dioxide countries could produce, and allowing them to trade carbon allowances with one another, were key to achieving emissions cuts.
The economists made their call as ministers from around the world arrived in Montreal, Canada to discuss the United Nations-brokered Kyoto protocol, including what should replace its current provisions when they expire in 2012.
A draft text which the president of the meeting, Canada's environment minister Stéphane Dion, wants representatives to agree on would require countries to start preparing for post-2012 talks from next March.
The US, which has rejected the Kyoto treaty as harmful to its economy, has signalled its refusal to accept any start to negotiations on the protocol's future stages. The US favours co-operation on new technologies, such as hydrogen and "clean" coal, that would lower greenhouse gas emissions in the future. Proponents of Kyoto fear the US stance will prevent any significant progress being made at the Montreal meeting.
One achievement of the meeting so far, however, has been an agreement to allow poor nations to count their rainforests as repositories of carbon dioxide - making them eligible for economic assistance under international accords on climate change.
Margaret Beckett, environment minister of the UK, which holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, said the 15 "older" members of the EU were on course to reduce by 2010 their emissions by 9.3 per cent compared with 1990levels, thus meeting their obligations under the Kyoto treaty. "But all our work will be only partly successful if we do not start to think innovatively about what more has to be done."
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