|The Week That Was
December 2, 2000
NEW ON THE SEPP WEB:
Before you celebrate the collapse of COP-6, read this: John K. Carlisle, director of The National Center for Public Policy Research's Environmental Policy Task Force, analyzes the breakdown of the Hague climate conference and warns of unilateral moves to control CO2 in the US. He can be reached at JCarlisle@nationalcenter.org
REFLECTIONS ON THE COLLAPSE OF COP-6
Final negotiations end without consensus - talks set to continue next year:
In a final informal plenary session for government ministers and other senior officials, COP-6 President Jan Pronk announced that final efforts to seek consensus have concluded without agreement. He acknowledged that he was extremely disappointed and said the meeting had not lived up to expectations from the outside world.
It is now certain that COP-6 Part II will take place next year, probably in late May and early June.
U.S. delegation chief Frank Loy complained that other delegations were being less than forthcoming in the negotiations. "The United States has demonstrated real flexibility across a range of issues," he said in a speech to the plenary. "We stand ready to make reasonable compromises. We are waiting for others to do so as well. And time is growing short."
The U.S. delegation was working within confined limits, knowing that a skeptical Congress in Washington needs to endorse any agreement.
Rep. Joe Barton, a Republican from Texas who is close to Gov. George W. Bush, said if Bush wins the presidency, Barton would recommend that the United States abandon the Kyoto agreement and begin negotiations to leave economies unfettered by environmental constraints.
"What you are seeing here is an exercise in futility in the worst case, or an exercise in fantasy in the best case, and nothing I have seen this week is going to be voted on in a positive way," Barton said.
In other conference developments, the head of the U.N. Environment Program blasted proposals to include nuclear energy options as a means to slow global warming.
"I'm utterly convinced that it should not be included in any type of (agreement)," the U.N.'s Klaus Toepfer told reporters. He is a former German environment minister.
The nuclear power industry has argued that nuclear reactors are clean and produce no carbon dioxide. But environmentalists have attacked that stance and point to the longer-term problems of nuclear waste and safety.
The United States and Japan have said they would back plans allowing them to fund nuclear projects in developing countries to reduce global emissions of carbon dioxide.
The U.N. weather agency said Tuesday that deaths from heat waves in big cities worldwide are expected to double over the next 20 years if global warming is not curbed.
"Heat waves are expected to become a major killer," World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Godwin Obasi said.
SEPP Comment: Surprised? What did you expect?
By Myron Ebell
Washington, DC, November 30, 2000 - The lack of any agreement at the United Nations' recently concluded negotiations on climate change in the Hague is a victory for consumers around the world. The European Union's refusal to accept the almost complete capitulation by the United States delegation to European demands deals a strong blow to the agenda of energy suppression, higher taxation, and economic stagnation embodied in the Kyoto Protocol.
The collapse of COP-6, contrary to the spin put on it by many environmental groups, was not caused by the stubbornness or intransigence of the United States. Under direct orders from President Bill Clinton, the United States delegation agreed to a deal that sold out the U. S. position on carbon sinks and gave the Europeans at least eighty per cent of they demanded. But that wasn't enough for the radical environmentalists who control European policy, and so they blew up the deal.
Given the ever-weaker scientific case for believing in future catastrophic global warming, the European Greens' all-or-nothing approach has inadvertently led to a good result. It means that the huge reductions in energy use and lower standards of living that would be required by the Kyoto Protocol are far from being forced on us by a U.N. bureaucracy.
The real motivation of these proponents of the Kyoto Protocol was made clearer in the Hague. French President Jacques Chirac in his address on November 20 told the delegates that the Kyoto Protocol was "the first component of an authentic global governance." Their failure to take that first step is good news for all those who value national sovereignty, personal freedom, and economic prosperity.
By James K. Glassman, Host, Tech Central Station
THE HAGUE, The Netherlands. The picture of the climate treaty negotiations in the Netherlands last week that most people will remember best is that of U.S. negotiator Frank Loy with a berry-filled pie all over his face. It's appropriate.
From the start, the U.N.'s Sixth Session of the Conference of the Parties in The Hague was mostly about trying to make the United States look bad. For reasons of both politics and economics, not environment, Europe pursued remedies to the perceived risk of global warming that it knew from the start the United States was bound to reject.
The fact about global climate change is that while there s a consensus among some scientists that the world has warmed in the last quarter century, there is tremendous scientific uncertainty about how much climate is likely to change in the future and what precisely humans role in that change is.
A group of seven scientists brought together by S. Fred Singer, an atmospheric physicist who was the first director of the U.S. Weather Satellite Service and most recently chief scientist for the U.S. Department of Transportation, pointed out that corrected data from land-based monitoring in the United States and Europe shows no warming in those places in recent years. They also say that, contrary to popular claims, severe weather events have not increased.
Meanwhile, discussions in Holland were premised on the implementation of the Kyoto protocol negotiated three years ago in Japan that all participants knew was a non-starter politically in the United States.
That agreement calls for the world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5 percent from 1990 levels. To get there, though, the agreement took an odd route. The United States was told to cut its emissions by 7 percent, and Europe by 8 percent. But exempted were developing nations, including China, a huge emitter of greenhouse gases.
The U.S Senate prior to Kyoto had unanimously passed a resolution requiring that any climate treaty the administration submitted to it must involve developing nations in reductions as well as the United States. Furthermore, the administration would need to demonstrate that the benefit of the treaty would outweigh its economic harm.
At The Hague, the Clinton administration tried to meet that stricture by seeking liberal emissions trading between nations and counting carbon sinks as meeting the goal. Such sinks amount to reforestation projects planted here or developed with U.S. aid elsewhere that would suck the biggest greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, from the atmosphere.
Europe would have none of that, though. Seeing that it likely can meet its 8 percent reduction as a continent thanks to Britain s natural gas finds and Germany s modernization of industrial plants in its reintegrated East German half, European bureaucrats demanded that the United States cut its use of fossil fuels, the major human component in the production of greenhouse gases.
But many economists, including some who agree with the thesis that humans can do something about global warming, warn that quick action in that direction would have dire economic consequences.
For example, Robert Stavens, an environmental economist at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, who is helping write the economic section of the U.N. s most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, told Tech Central Station before COP-6 that the Kyoto accord did too little, too soon anyway.
The short time table for implementing the Kyoto reductions by industrial nations would seriously disrupt global commerce, he said, while the reductions themselves would do little to curb global warming because developing nations were left out.
With the science about what changes humans can actually accomplish in controlling climate change still murky and the potential economic harm from overly abrupt action so great, Europe's lack of flexibility to U.S. proposals on carbon sinks and emissions trading virtually guaranteed talks at The Hague would break down without agreement.
While Loy may have ended up with berries all over his face, it was sloppy politics that landed COP-6 in a tar pit from which it couldn't escape.