Credit where credit is due

This story makes clear that the Bush administration’s climate change team — for all of their faults, not least of which is a reluctance to aggressively defend their position against the remarkably dishonest rhetoric that this issue attracts — at least has recognized the key to gaining buy-in on their vision of a post-Kyoto world and, it is now clear, has acted upon the recognition rather effectively.

First and foremost, they saw what was important in outflanking the European Union’s insistent pressure campaign to gain approval by the rest of the world — read: the U.S. — of an international pact of the cap-and-trade variety in which Europe has vested so much political face. This entailed gaining the blessing for their alternative approach from the U.N. (its relevant body being the Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) — motto: It’s not just a treaty; it’s an actual bureaucracy, too), by communicating the importance of keeping that outfit unthreatened and the primary caretaker of any broad-based global warming regime (anyone who has read Kyoto or understands how it operates knows that whatever the objective emissions reduction isn’t it).

As difficult as that proposition may have originally sounded barring simple capitulation, this they have achieved.

First, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer publicly endorsed the administration’s plan for a top-emitters pact, not subject to EU hostage-holding as it will be a coalition of the willing and, by establishing that everyone chooses his own metric, it will doubtless include everyone (making an EU pout-out embarrassing only to the EU). Now de Boer steps up to take the rhetorical lead specifically endorsing a successor pact more of the Austin Powers “everyone-do-your-own-thing-baby” variety. True, any pact whose premise is that its adherents (sort of like a binding commitment to take on voluntary targets) inherently admits the absence of the need for a pact. But dealing with the politics of Kyoto, this approach is not without merit and sense.

Now Europe confronts its greatest challenge, not how to get the U.S. to adopt their cap-and-trade treaty (it won’t) or even China and India ( it remains clear that they too won’t) but instead how to get a post-2012 “burden sharing agreement” among its 25 member states who would be covered by it. Reportage on these talks to date indicates the going has been slow. Czech President Vaclav Klaus’s upcoming U.N. speech on the matter, I understand, won’t make it any easier, either.

Looking back, who woulda thunk it?