Rocky Start to Buenos Aires Conference

by William Yeatman on November 7, 1998

The global warming conference in Buenos Aires got off to a rocky start. Only 2,000 people reportedly participated in the events first week, a far cry from the 10,000+ that attended the December 1997 conference in Kyoto. The Green non-governmental organization (NGO) lobby appears to be dispirited, and expectations for COP-4 are very low indeed. Early in the conference, China and the Group of 77 underdeveloped countries refused to consider the possibility of voluntarily participating in global carbon suppression efforts under the climate treaty. The Kyoto Protocol probably remains doomed in the US Senate without the Third World consenting to energy use restrictions.

Reminiscent of Kyoto, the Buenos Aires conference is replete with absurd Green symbolism. NGO observers are given a document briefcase full of global warming propaganda. Theres only one problem it is made out of 100 percent recycled cardboard! The case is flimsy enough on a dry day, but on Friday it is raining (because of global warming, perhaps?) and the cardboard will not withstand inclement weather. Such are the sacrifices we must all make for ecology.

On Friday, November 6, the Buenos Aires conference started taking on water, literally. Rainwater leaked into the city Exposition Center, flooding the office facilities of several government and NGO delegations. The delgations of Japan, Canada, and the US were wholly or partially under water. “Were not hit as bad as Japan, but weve had to move all of our computers away from the water,” Acting Assistant Secretary of State Melinda Kimble told Cooler Heads as she scrambled to safety. We always knew the ship of State was adrift, but now we know it is a leaky vessel as well.

The Global Climate Coalition and Edison Electric Institute booths looked like they were struck by a greenhouse hurricane. At first, when it appeared that only the industry coalition was affected, Greenpeace exclaimed that it was “a sign from God.” But their office started getting wet a few minutes later, along with the World Wildlife Funds. All sides are experiencing the perils of government inefficiency in the provision of services, especially in an underdeveloped country.

A fleet of natural gaspowered, eco-buses sits in front of the Exposition Center that is hosting the conference. Good thing they were donated by Mercedes-Benz not many conference-goers are availing themselves of the ecologically correct transportation service. “I have to be somewhere in five minutes,” complained a woman who had just been informed that the eco-shuttles depart every fifteen minutes. She took a taxi, like most folks. One eco-bus was observed leaving the Exposition Center with only one passenger. Thanks, Mercedes-Benz, for reminding us all once again how wasteful eco-transportation really is.

Conference participants were actively herded into a meeting room for an end-of-week wrap up, presented by representatives from WWF, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, and Climate Action Network. At the sparsely-attended press conference, a Green activist demanded the creation of “solid frameworks around the flexibility mechanisms.” Multiple oxymoronic phrases like this one are uttered in treaty-speak, often in succession.

If you dont toe the party line, you are not welcome in these halls. The Buenos Aires Journal cancelled a planned interview with atmospheric physicist Dr. Fred Singer, explaining that higher ups had nixed the story. When asked who had ordered the news blackout on Singer, our source denied it was the Argentine government, but admitted it was someone “close to” the government. Only pseudo-science is respected, as when the the Buenos Aires Herald trumpeted WWFs preposterous prediction that global warming will produce an epidemic of dengue fever in Argentina. This despite the fact that the real experts in the field, like Dr. Paul Reiter at the Centers for Disease Control, contend that temperature has abslutely nothing to do with outbreaks of the disease.

At mid-conference, COP-4 has produced nothing in the way of a consensus. Developing countries rejected US overtures to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, insisting that energy use is deperately needed to overcome poverty. The delegation from China ridiculed US proposals for “voluntary” emissions reduction commitments, noting the contradiction between “voluntary” and “commitment.” Already, work plans are being developed to address virtually all contentious issues at next years conference in either Morocco or Jordan.

In a desperate effort to salvage COP-4, Conference President Maria Julia Alsaguray, Argentinas minister for the environment, is facilitating side negotiations between a handful of developing countries and the U.S. The talks are rumored to include Argentina, Mexico, Chile, and South Korea. These countries are discussing “voluntary commitments” in exchange for generous technology transfers and other aid from the US but only outside the formal treaty framework of the Kyoto Protocol. The big players, China and India, are still firmly opposed to any Third World energy use restrictions being included in the global warming treaty.

The Cooler Heads Coalition, made up of 22 non-profit public policy organizations, is a subgroup of the 4 million member National Consumer Coalition, founded by Consumer Alert. For more information about global warming, contact Jim Sheehan at 312-4061 (Lancaster Hotel) in Buenos Aires or Jonathan Adler or Paul Georgia at 202-331-1010 in Washington, DC

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