Dispatches from the UN Climate Conference

by William Yeatman on December 5, 2005

in Kyoto Negotiations, Politics, Science























The Enviros are Depressed || December 7, 2005











Correction: First, let me correct a mistake in my first report from Montreal yesterday. I wrote that Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, in reply to a question said that yes, she thought it was correct that India and China had joined the U. S. in objecting to a new round of formal negotiations on what is to follow Kyoto after 2012. What she really said was that she agreed that yes it was wrong to think that was the case. Thanks to Katie Mandes of the Pew Center for correcting my misunderstanding, and my apologies to Eileen Claussen and the Pew Center.











There are many thousands (ten?) of people at this year's COP/MOP (the eleventh Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change–that is, the Rio Treaty–and the first Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, which went into force in February) in Montreal. The Palais des Congres where it is being held is a huge and impressive building, and the whole show has been organized with admirable smoothness. Yet the total impression is underwhelming.











Nothing substantive is expected to be agreed to by the official delegates. The main energy at COPs is provided by the environmental NGOS and the endless series of side events that are held. But this year the viros are depressed. They have good reason to be depressed, of course. It has become apparent that the EU, Japan, and Canada are not going to meet their Kyoto targets. It's hard to see how another round of emissions cuts beyond 2012 can be agreed to by the current parties. Convincing major developing countries to join the energy rationing club seems hopeless. So there is good reason why the life has gone out of the Kyoto party.











Another reason for the lack of joie de vivre here in Montreal is that the COPs are being increasingly dominated by the new Kyoto technocratic establishment. There are now many thousands of people employed in implementing the mind-numbing details of the Kyoto Protocol. A substantial portion of them are in Montreal to give presentations at side events and to look for grants and contracts to fund their programs and projects.











I think this generally gloomy mood helps explain the curiously enthusiastic reception Senator Jeff Bingaman, Democrat of New Mexico and ranking Democrat on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, received. Senator Bingaman appeared at an event late yesterday afternoon held in a large meeting room in the EU Pavilion sponsored by Resources for the Future and other groups. The room was packed and overflowing.











Senator Bingaman brought a message of hope from the U. S. Senate. The tide has shifted towards mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions, according to Senator Bingaman. As evidence, he detailed his efforts to add climate provisions to the omnibus energy bill passed and signed into law this summer. Senator Bingaman developed an amendment based on recommendations from the self-anointed and so-called National Commission on Energy Policy. His amendment would set a very easy cap on emissions and set up an emissions credits trading system which would have the government sell additional credits whenever the price reaches a few dollars a ton.











However, this modest amendment wasn't offered on the Senate floor, because as Senator Bingaman admitted yesterday, they realized that it didn't have enough support to pass. So instead Senator Bingaman offered a sense of the Senate resolution that says the Senate should pass mandatory limits on emissions before the end of the year. This non-binding resolution was added to the energy bill with 53 votes.











–Myron Ebell, Cooler Heads Coalition


























































The Team Arrives || December 6, 2005
CEI's team (Marlo Lewis, Richard Morrison, Isaac Post, and I) arrived in Montreal at 8:35 this morning and, after checking in to our hotel, reached the Palais des Congres just after 10. After registering, we immediately went to an NGO side event held by the Pew Center of Global Climate Change to discuss their report on the results of their "Climate Dialogue at Pocantico."












































































The dialogue was held on four occasions over thirteen days in 2004 and 2005 between 25 or so business, government, and "civil society" leaders. It was held at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund's Pocantico conference center in Tarrytown, New York. Participants included representatives from seven big corporations, from the governments of Australia, Canada, Mexico, Britain, Argentina, Japan, China, Germany, Tuvalu, Brazil, and Malta, and top staffers from the U. S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The dialogue was chaired by Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center, and Ged Davis, managing director of the World Economic Forum.












































































The purpose of the dialogue was to agree on recommendations for "International Climate Efforts Beyond 2012.". As far as I could tell, the most significant recommendation of the dialogue is that there needs to be a further high level political dialogue of fifteen to thirty key countries that would run parallel to new official negotiations within the Kyoto process.












































































Eileen Claussen said that the U. S. delegation's refusal to join a new round of Kyoto negotiations did not represent the American mainstream view. She expressed confidence that the next presidential administration (whether Democratic or Republican) would have a far more constructive position. Curiously, she also said that in the end countries will do what is in their national interests (which helps to explain why the Clinton and Bush policies have been remarkably similar despite their rhetorical differences). In reply to a question from Ron Bailey of Reason magazine, she admitted that India and China also appear to be blocking a new round of official talks.












































































Jim Greene of Senator Joe Biden's minority staff on the Foreign Relations Committee echoed Clausseen's views. He said that there was now a clear bi-partisan consensus in the Senate that President Bush' position is unacceptable. The official position of the U. S. does not represent the position of the Congress or state and local governments.












































































In reply to a question from my colleague Marlo Lewis, Elliot Diringer, director of the dialogue for the Pew Center, said that some of the dialogue's participants helped frame the Clean Development Partnership created by the U. S., Australia, China, India, Japan, and South Korea. Claussen said that the dialogue was interested by the partnership but was waiting to see how robust it would be. I think that means whether it will agree to mandatory emissions cuts.












































































A questioner gave four potential factors that contributed the America's rejection of Kyoto and asked the panelists to rank them. The factors offered were: the political power of the petroleum industry, the typical American attitude not to like what to be told to do, refusal to accept the science, and that Kyoto would be a job killer. Greene replied that there were very few "flat Earthers" left in the Senate, but many Senators were concerned about saving jobs in existing industries and were not focused on all the new jobs that would be created.
























































































































































Claussen ignored the influence of big oil (perhaps because several big oil companies belong to her Pew Center), but she said that the American people recognize that the science is no longer in doubt. On the other hand, a lot of people believe that cutting emissions would be a job killer, even though reasonable people (even some in the Bush administration) know this isn't the case if it's done carefully and slowly. She also said that many Americans really didn't like government or the UN telling them what to do. To which my own reply is, thank God for the sturdy character and good sense of the American people and their abiding resistance to authoritarian government.
–Myron Ebell, Cooler Heads Coalition















































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