I noted in a post a while back that the UK Environment Secretary, Margaret Beckett, had suggested that, given the apparent failure of Kyoto - in particular as regards the US - to deliver the necessary cuts in carbon dioxide emissions to tackle global warming, the UK was prepared to support a deal that would propose voluntary, rather than legally binding, targets for such cuts. Tony Blair had also been making noises in this regard. They seem, however, to have rethought this strategy, judging from Beckett's comments in Montreal this week:
Without mechanisms in the form of compulsory action, such as targets to cut emissions, existing and new technologies will never be rolled out on the scale we need. Voluntary measures can be helpful, but compulsory action is a surer way of delivering results.
This is, I think, to be welcomed. As I argued previously, even if there is only very little hope for the sucess of compulsory targets, there seem to be even fewer grounds for optimism in terms of voluntary ones. Most important, however, may be what this change of heart implies: that the UK has given up on attempting to bring the US on board at Montreal by watering down any agreement, and is instead pushing to commit willing countries to a more ambitious project. If so, this is again to be applauded: too many promising international initiatives have been weakened in ultimately futile attempts to bring the reticent superpower on board. We need look no further than the ICC for an example of this.