The Asia-Pacific Partnership and GNEP, versus Kyoto and the NPT

I mentioned on May 24 that climate change and nuclear weapons proliferation are the two biggest dangers facing humanity. The Kyoto Treaty addresses climate change, but several of the biggest emitting countries, including the U.S., have refused to sign it. This, together with the fact that some of Kyoto’s strongest adherents cannot establish economy-friendly mechanisms for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, renders the Treaty all but unworkable.

Keeping this in mind, which international framework stands the better chance of producing significant emission reductions: Kyoto or the Asia-Pacific Partnership for Clean Development and Climate? The latter includes the U.S., India, and China, which all stayed out of Kyoto. It is significant that these countries also support expansion of civilian nuclear power as a major technological solution to climate change.

India’s pro-nuclear position, and its inclusion in the Asia-Pacific Partnership (though it continues to be denied entry to APEC), raises concerns regarding the other danger I mentioned: nuclear weapons proliferation. Until recently, India was on Uncle Sam’s list of nuclear delinquents, because of its bomb test in 1974 and refusal to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

But September 11, the nuclear crisis between India and Pakistan in 2002 (the diplomatic resolution of which was brokered by the Bush administration), and the advent of bigger proliferation problems than India—i.e., Iran, North Korea, and, of course, Pakistan—spurred a reality-based rethink of U.S. India policy. The subsequent diplomatic reversal made it palatable for the U.S. to enter into last month’s commercial nuclear fuel agreement with India.

However, this agreement was made in spite of the fact that India has rejected, and probably will continue to reject, the NPT. Though others are troubled by this, Bush & co. have apparently decided India could do far worse than stay out of an arrangement that isn’t working anyway.

Where does that leave current anti-proliferation efforts? The other day, I mentioned the dual promise of the GNEP: to boost civilian nuclear power generation—and displace fossil fuels on a grand scale—while safeguarding the commercial nuclear fuel market against weapons proliferation. (“Promise” is the operative word; not everyone agrees the GNEP would work as intended.) The GNEP is in lockstep with the spirit of the Asia-Pacific Partnership. How do the GNEP’s requirements regarding international inspection differ from those under the NPT? If there’s little or no difference, we could be seeing the beginning of a new international approach to non-proliferation.

What is Canada’s position on all this? We’re thinking about joining the GNEP, and that’s a good thing (see article). We’ve also been thinking about joining the Asia-Pacific Partnership. Not surprisingly, this hasn’t gone down too well with the pro-Kyoto, anti-nuke crowd. The knives have come out quickly. Canada’s point man on nuclear power, Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn, has already had to correct media reports that say Canada would be “forced” to accept imports of nuclear waste.

This is a leadership opportunity. Canada could and should use its role as an energy superpower as a lever to achieve a stronger non-proliferation regime.

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