Third World Fumes

by William Yeatman on December 4, 1997

in Kyoto Negotiations

COP-3 in Kyoto is the culmination of earlier summits the Rio Conference in 1992, the implementation of energy curtailment policies starting at COP-1 in Berlin, and the further refinement of those policies at COP-2 in Geneva. (These people really know how to pick conference sites.) All these meetings produced ambiguous documents. Was it Will Rogers who stated: America has rarely lost a war or won a treaty?

The ambiguities are now coming back to haunt us. At Rio, the US and other developed nations promised to curtail energy use ‘voluntarily’ by large amounts. COP-1 and COP-2 moved these agreements along. The original agreement wasnt clear about the responsibilities of the developing nations, but the Berlin agreement promised the developing world that they faced no commitments.

Now in Kyoto, only a handful of nations have met their commitments. Katie McGinty, Al Gores acolyte in the White House, complained that our failure wasnt the Administrations fault — the Congress had failed to provide adequate subsidies for green technologies, our economy had grown too fast, and energy prices were too low.

Possibly worried that the Administration might try to resolve these problems, the U.S. Senate passed the Byrd-Hagel resolution which says that the U.S. will impose no further pain on the U.S. economy unless the major developing nations also sign up for energy conservation. Other nations are also realizing that an All Pain, No Gain carbon withdrawal plan is wrong-headed.

As a result, Kyoto is engaged in a desperate attempt to square the circle. Creative rhetoric to paper over the massive disagreements has proliferated. Language ranging from evolution to play are being introduced to suggest gradual, painless Third World commitments. New Zealand negotiators proposed that Third World nations agree to binding commitments sometime after 2012 but only if the developed nations had made progress by then. Third World spokesman rejected these ideas very quickly.

The poorer nations seem aware even if the U.S. is not that there are real costs of curtailing energy use. A Chinese delegate likened these proposals to a cartoon — a top-hatted gentlemen approaches a peasant cooking an open-fire meal and asks him to extinguish the fire to prevent global warming. He noted that the developed world might wish to reduce luxury emissions but that China was not about to reduce subsistence emissions. How ironic. China is more concerned with poverty than the US!

If the Chinese remain steadfast, the implications for Senate ratification are obvious.

Turnabout is fair play

Street Theatre is an important element of public policy and an element generally dominated by the Greens. Today, the arena was broadened considerably. Friends of the Earth (FOE) conducted an NGO poll to select the worst environmental offender. They then ceremonially delivered this Scorched Earth Award to the Global Climate Coalition (GCC), an industry NGO. A bowl of burnt soil was delivered to the industry groups headquarters, representing the greens fear that we are burning up the earth. The GCC swiftly threw away this dubious award.

But a symbol is a horrible thing to waste; thus, a contrarian coalition came together under the banner of ‘Friends of Humanity.’ Opposed to energy use restrictions under the climate treaty, the heavily outnumbered coalition teamed CEI with the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), Eagle Forum, and Sovereignty International. Friends of Humanity ‘recycled’ the award, renamed it the Scorched Economy Award, and delivered it it back to FOE. This time, the bowl was filled with Japanese Yen coins — symbolizing the costs of a Kyoto global warming treaty.

Against the backdrop of a large anti-climate treaty banner, the coalition took the opportunity to extol science, technology, and economic progress, and denounced the climate treaty. Believing that energy benefits humanity, the pro-energy coalition expressed the hope that the Scorched Economy Award would compel FOE and other anti-energy groups to reconsider.

An official of Friends of the Earth-International graciously accepted the Scorched Economy Award. Along with a World Wide Fund for Nature colleague, he began a heated exchange with the pro-energy advocates on the merits of the climate treaty. The press corps seemed to delight in excitement. At the proper dramatic moment, the two sides agreed to continue their comments in a formal debate. CEI and CFACT vs. FOE and WWF in the Match of the Century! Next Tuesday, December 9.

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