Bjørn Lomborg’s latest op-ed, titled “Focusing on R&D a smarter choice in climate talks,” deals with smarter alternatives to another Kyoto. An excerpt:
Kyoto’s successor will not be successful unless China and India are somehow included. To achieve that, the EU has made the inevitable, almost ridiculous proposal of bribing developing nations to take part — at a cost of 175 billion euros (US$225.7 billion) annually by 2020.
In the midst of a financial crisis, it seems unbelievable that European citizens will bear the financial burden of paying off China and India. The sadder thing, though, is that this money would be spent on methane collection from waste dumps in developing nations, instead of on helping those countries’ citizens deal with more pressing concerns like health and education.
There is an alternative to spending so much to achieve so little. Cutting carbon still costs a lot more than the good that it produces. We need to make emission cuts much cheaper so that countries like China and India can afford to help the environment. This means that we need to invest much more in research and development aimed at developing low-carbon energy.
If every country committed to spending 0.05 percent of its GDP exploring non-carbon-emitting energy technologies, this would translate into US$25 billion per year, or 10 times more than what the world spends now. Yet, the total also would be seven times cheaper than the Kyoto Protocol, and many times cheaper than the Copenhagen Protocol is likely to be. It would ensure that richer nations pay more, taking much of the political heat from the debate.
Decades of talks have failed to make any impact on carbon emissions. Expecting China and India to make massive emission cuts for little benefit puts the Copenhagen meeting on a sure path to being another lost opportunity. Yet, at the same time, the Chinese and Indian challenge could be the impetus we need to change direction, end our obsession with reducing emissions and focus instead on research and development, which would be smarter and cheaper — and would actually make a difference.