01/02/2013 06:14 pm ET Updated Mar 04, 2013

Goodbye Kyoto, We Hardly Knew You

Despite the positive spin put out at the last United Nations climate meeting, the Kyoto protocol is in steady decline. Canada withdrew from the treaty at the end of 2012, having given notice a year earlier. Now, Russia has withdrawn from the treaty, and Ukraine may as well.

Regardless of one's stance on climate change (I'm a lukewarmer, myself), the United Nations-driven approach was never likely to work. Embodying all of the flaws of the United Nations itself, the climate process gave every country a voice, exempted developing countries from responsibility, and by setting up mechanisms such as emission trading and the clean development mechanism, quickly became a game where smaller, developing countries would band together to demand wealth transfers from developed countries. Developed countries were urged to accept binding emission reduction targets, imposing still further economic burdens that competing countries would not have to incur. Essentially, the U.S. climate process boiled down to a two-prong demand for developed countries to simultaneously shovel money to other countries while self-mutilating their economies and sabotaging their competitiveness.

Alternative approaches were floated over the years, such as the Asia-Pacific Partnership, which was to be a voluntary agreement among the world's largest emitters, but the giant traveling circus that is the UN climate process steamrolled right past them. Without mandates and wealth transfers, there could be no other approach to controlling greenhouse gas emissions.

2013 could well see the year that the UN's lock on international climate policy is broken, potentially allowing for other unilateral or multilateral arrangements to take their place. Time will tell.