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CHIRAC HAILS CLIMATE TREATY AS
A live report from The Hague by CEI’s Chris Horner
at the Sixth Conference of the Parties to the UN Treaty
on Global Warming
The Hague, Netherlands, November 20, 2000 – French President Jacques Chirac electrified this Sixth Conference of the Parties to the UN framework treaty on global warming, praising that agreement as “the first step toward global governance.” The treaty, known as the “Kyoto Protocol” after the city in Japan where certain details were agreed upon, requires developed nations to cut emissions from energy use by an average of 5 percent below 1990 levels. In the case of the United States, that would be approximately 20 percent below current emission levels. No developed country, France included, has ratified the 1997 agreement.
Legislative and parliamentary opposition to the treaty worldwide centers around how to significantly lower energy use, given that taxes and rationing are the two most likely options with current technologies. The treaty, which only has binding impact on the most industrialized countries, also thus potentially threatens the world’s poor as energy use is made less available and production is moved to third world nations that do not share the developed world’s environmental standards.
Speaking off the text of his prepared remarks, Chirac expressly hailed the document for its goal of fostering world governance. Many opponents have decried this purpose for some time, to the derision of treaty proponents who denied any such intentions. Some observers believe Chirac’s comments may signal a new stage of openness in debate over this controversial effort in particular, and United Nations agreements in general.
The French President also singled out the US for its “doubts and hesitations,” failing to add that no European government has sought ratification of the accord. One US Senator arriving in The Hague just in time to hear these remarks joked grimly about “Chirac’s warm welcome.”
Others were less charitable. “It has been clear to us for some time, emphasized by the outright ignoring of recent scientific developments that betray its underlying theory: Kyoto was not aimed at addressing any real environmental threat,” said David Rothbard of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow. “The [proponents’] cry of ‘we must act now’ merely signaled to us an awareness that their true intentions as well as the insufficient scientific basis would become apparent during any extended debate. At least Chirac was honest about it.”
“One-worlders aren’t alone in their self-interested support for Kyoto. The third-world sees the tremendous transfer of wealth and jobs. Big-government types see the erosion of property rights – though the indigenous tribes are now raising Cain over that one. Most of the big business here is participating because they see profit in having their goods mandated or preferred by government fiat. Almost every interest is wetting its beak via Kyoto,” added Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
Regardless of intent, nations continued negotiations as this second week of sessions, designed at adding meat to the bones of that which was agreed to in Kyoto, got underway. Senior level diplomats, and representatives of the United States Congress serving in a bit of a “watchdog” capacity, arrived Sunday for what was intended to be a week of work culminating the progress made during the first week.
Yet little progress appeared to have been made through this first day of escalated action, though most participants expect the American delegation to ultimately give in to whatever positions their European counterparts stick to as the week progresses. “We are negotiating with ourselves,” said one senior staff member representing the House of Representatives said, after US negotiators took major bargaining chips off the table early in the first week.
Allowing countries to use nuclear and hydroelectric power as a compliance tool, neither source which contributes to covered “greenhouse gas” emissions, was removed as an option with the release of a November 3 letter from Vice President Al Gore. It was written on Gore-Lieberman stationery, but the American delegation later affirmed its content as the US position.
This represents a change from the official position expressed as recently as during negotiating sessions as recent as September, during the Lyons, France meetings meant to serve as laying the groundwork for these talks. Additionally, the US offered to dramatically scale back certain “credits” they would receive for preserving forest and undeveloped land, only to have the European Union negotiators embarrass them by rejecting the high-profile offer through the press.
“How they are suddenly going to ‘play hardball,’ as they’ve told us, is a mystery to me,” said another staff member, representing the Senate majority. By the end of today the US had apparently stiffened its previously rejected offer by holding forth a less generous package regarding “sinks,” those projects which soak up greenhouse gases.
Talks are scheduled through Friday of this week, though most US observers will leave well in advance of that date in order to return home for Thanksgiving. Administration officials briefing non-governmental participants have stated they will not know whether other countries came “flexible and thoughtful enough” to agree to terms with which the US can live.
Nonetheless, the Administration officials have expressed a deep desire to “make progress” in order to ensure the Kyoto agreement maintains the appearance of being “alive.” The anticipated schedule, however, would leave the Administration’s negotiators to their own devices. That has led to several Members of Congress announcing their intention to stay through the holidays.