From an email this morning:
...if you want to get another post out of Japan's suggestion of 2005 as the "base year" for a post-Kyoto agreement, I'll be the live shill [! -ed.].Well, since you asked...
Why is the base year important?
(The reference is to this post from yesterday)
For the British the 1990 base year allowed them to get credit for their bringing North Sea gas onstream for electricity generation. Although gas produces less CO2 and Maggie Thatcher was one of the first world leaders to develop policy incorporating global warming theory, that's not why they switched to gas. The North Sea oil and gas fields were being developed* before Kyoto was a gleam in Maurice Strong's eye.
This brings up the crucial concept of "additionality". Simply stated, you don't get credit for doing something you were going to do anyway.
For the Germans, 1990 meant they would get credit for shutting down the amazingly inefficient east-bloc heavy industry. Reunification occurred October 3, 1990 when East Germany joined Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Again the concept of additionality says they shouldn't have gotten credit for doing something they were going to do anyway.
The U.S. agreed to support this bald-faced B.S. if Europe would agree to enshrine carbon trading* as one of the approaches favored by the Protocol.
The Japanese on the other hand took a lot of energy-efficiency measures in the 1980's (they are, after all, a resource-poor country) and got no benefit from a date starting from their new, lower, base.
The 1990 base year has an important U.S. climate legislation angle. USCAP has adopted 1990 in their global warming manifesto. This would allow USCAP members to be credited for a much higher base of emissions to judge reductions against. For example, USCAP member Dupont sold their nylon business, reducing their carbon footprint immensely. If they fail to get credit for that, the fall-back position is to claim credit for changes made in manufacturing technology which were implemented as cost-saving measures. Again, giving credit for something that was going to be done anyway violates the additionality concept.
USCAP members also want credit for things they've done that are essentially P.R. branding, thus deriving the P.R. accretion to shareholder value and a higher base to measure emissions from.
One of these days I'll get around to posting on the "Credit for early action scam".
I'll take off my professorial hat and promise not to do another policy-wonk post.
*See: Enron; J-block; Teeside; etc.
Here's a treasured Enron link, for others, use the 'Search Blog' feature.
If you have an academic or research interest (or just want to indulge in a bit of "how did it go so wrong" voyeurism), the Trampoline Enron Explorer is a lot of fun:
In October 2003 the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission placed 200,000 of Enron's internal emails from 1999-2002 into the public domain as part of its ongoing investigations. The archive offers an extraordinary window into the lives and preoccupations of Enron's top executives during a turbulent period. Read more about Enron's demise on Wikipedia.
Trampoline engineers used this data as testbed during development of the company's SONAR technology. The result was so fascinating we decided to open it up and allow anyone to dig in. The Enron Explorer lets you investigate the actions and reactions of Enron's senior management team as the noose began to tighten.
How to use it
Click a name in the panel below to open an Enron executive's mailbox. Read any email by clicking the subject. Enron Explorer analyses each person's main contacts and the themes they're talking about. Launch the Visualiser to see each person's social network (Java required). Click a contact in the Visualiser to shift the focus to them and load their mailbox, contacts and themes. Click a theme to access all relevant emails.