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Walking out on Kyoto did not save the American economy

By Najib Saab

November 2008


When the USA President George W. Bush announced 8 years ago that his country withdrew its commitments under the Kyoto protocol on Climate Change, the argument used was saving the American economy from collapse. The restrictions imposed by the Kyoto Protocol for the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions from human activities, mainly industries, transport and energy generation have been considered by the American administration as barriers against economic growth.


Prior to the Bush era, the American car makers’ industry did start ambitious programmes for developing technologies that would reduce the consumption of fuel and cut emissions. During the unfortunate Bush era, most of the American companies have scrapped these programmes entirely or slowed down implementation, due to reducing the legal limits on energy efficiency and emissions. This has resulted in entering the tunnel of “savage industrialism” as SUVs grew bigger and a new generation of fancy oil-guzzlers was introduced to the urban scene, including the GM Hummer, the Ford Explorer, and the 12-cylinder Mercedes and BMW, mainly destined to the American market.


At that time, some of the Japanese and European car makers got the message and released into the market more efficient conventional cars and hybrid vehicles that use fuel engines and electrical motors at the same time. American companies did not pay attention to this trend until the sharp and acute increase in oil prices and the subsequent reduction of sales of big cars. This has prompted them to work out urgent plans for the production of cars that are less-polluting and have more energy-efficient engines.


Rogue public environmental policies are the ones to blame for the situation that resulted in the crisis for car makers and not the environmental measures that the Bush administration warned from. This has shocked the American firms that were taken by surprise and rushed to revive their development programmes for efficient cars that might bring them back into the competition platform.


Some people do not read the writing on the wall. Last month has just witnessed the most horrible collapse of the American economy that has dragged with it markets around the world. The USA entered a state of economic recession despite its environmental challenge to the whole world and its refusal to commit to Kyoto restrictions, and later refusing to accep a time frame for the post Kyoto phase.


It has been proven that refusal of environmental regulations by advocating a sense of fear from it causing economic setback was only an illusion. The economy has already collapsed for many structural causes that made the USA lose its economic supremacy, as it lost in environment. Some have started whispering that the economic recession will result in diminishing the commitments towards environmental programmes. This, if really happened, will be a crime that goes beyond the impacts of “environmental terrorism” policies of President Bush over the last 8 years.


In 2006, the renowned economist Nicholas Stern released a report on the economic impacts of Climate change, concluding that if climate change is not checked immediately, it will reduce the global GDP by 20%, while if real mitigation measures are implemented now, the cost will be only 1%. The Stern review emphasized that if the business as usual scenario prevails, it will result in the displacement of 200 million people due to floods and sea level rise in addition to hundreds of millions of climate refugees whose arable land will be hit by drought, while one in six people will suffer from severe water shortage.


Beware from the economic crisis leading to neglecting the environment. This is the short path to a stunning economic catastrophe that makes what we witness now no more than a prelude to the real act.

Arab Environment in 10 Years
ARAB ENVIRONMENT IN 10 YEARS crowns a decade of the series of annual reports produced by the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED) on the state of Arab environment. It tracks and analyzes changes focusing on policies and governance, including level of response and engagement in international environmental treaties. It also highlights developments in six selected priority areas, namely water, energy, air, food, green economy and environmental scientific research.
Environmental Agenda
Environment in Arab Media
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