Despite the seasonal feasts of free-range turkey (or tofurkey better still) and fair-trade mashed potatoes, Thanksgiving brought bad news for the global green unicorn hunters. Hopes for an international agreement to regulate the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) were dashed by Chinese and Indian refusals to go along with the plan. The Washington Post has the story:
Officials from the United States and the Federated States of Micronesia pushed for a phase-down in the use of HFCs, which are used as industrial refrigerants, as part of the 1987 Montreal Protocol agreement. HFC emissions are on the rise worldwide, in part because they serve as a substitute for ozone-depleting chemicals already eliminated under the pact.Although 108 of the treaty’s 197 signatories backed the proposal, it failed to pass because China and India objected. The chemicals, which are used in refrigeration, air conditioning and insulating foams, are increasingly popular in developing countries such as India. The measure would have capped the total production of HFCs in 2014 and then lowered it by 15 percent every three years for the next 30 years.
This failure underlines a point that has been long understood by everyone outside the global green bubble: the global political community doesn’t want a global carbon treaty. Unlike the Kyoto Protocol which was doomed to failure from the very beginning, the Montreal Protocol has been the shining achievement of the green movement. Signed in the late eighties, the protocol has been signed by nearly every country and has been broadly successful in reducing use of the substances it covers.The fact that even a limited and targeted agreement cannot be reached within an established and respected framework reveals the level of enthusiasm for more international action on carbon. If this relatively modest proposal couldn’t pass, how could the more grandiose carbon treaties proposed in Copenhagen and Cancun expect a better fate?The obsession with a grand global carbon treaty is a unicorn hunt, not a serious political project. If the energy now sucked up by the unicorn hunt were available for more practical and useful projects like the HFC agreement, the atmosphere would be in better shape and the environment movement could move from one modest victory to the next incremental goal.For green activists, apparently, to travel hopefully is better than to arrive: greens would rather chase unicorns than catch rabbits.