Dispatches from the Montreal U.N. Climate Conference
And Always Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide || December 9, 2005
R. Paul Martin, the caretaker Prime Minister of Canada since his government fell last week and until elections are held in January, gave a speech to the official delegates at COP-11/MOP-1 in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Montreal on Wednesday and also held a press conference. He said that there was a global conscience and that President Bush should heed the global conscience and get back on the Kyoto bandwagon. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
This is the first time I've heard of this global conscience. I have no idea what the global conscience may be telling us to do. Perhaps it only tells world leaders what to do, which explains why I've never heard it. At any rate, it sounds like a good thing. The problem must be that some world leaders hear the global conscience more clearly than others. Some, we can surmise, hear the global conscience faintly enough that they can ignore it and pursue their national self-interest or what their citizens who elected them want to see done. These are clearly the naughty world leaders, and someone needs to rap their knuckles and get them back into line. Mr. Martin thinks he is the man for the job.
I can see why Mr. Martin started with President Bush, since nearly everyone at COP-11/MOP-1 agrees that he is the world's leading climate criminal. In fact, most people at COP-11/MOP-1, probably including Mr Martin, think he's the world's only climate criminal. Here they are sadly mistaken. The leaders of 154 other nations besides the U. S. have been unwilling to sign up for the Kyoto discipline of mandatory reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. And six nations that produce more than half the world's economic output and greenhouse gas emissions and contain nearly half the world's people have signed up to an agreement that doesn't have any binding limits on emissions. These six members of the Clean Development Partnership--the U. S., India, China, Australia, Japan, and South Korea--are undoubtedly the incorrigible ones. Their leaders probably swap jokes about the global conscience when they get together.
So if Mr. Martin has set himself up as the enforcer of the global conscience, he's got a big job to do. The results of Canada's elections next month may give him the chance to devote all his time to it.
But Mr. Martin has a bigger problem than the magnitude of the effort that is going to be required to slap all those knuckles. And it's the sort of problem that--alas--is so embarrassing that we can all understand why Mr. Martin has been just a wee bit secretive about it.
It turns out that although Mr. Martin hears the global conscience so loudly and clearly that he is in no doubt about what must be done by all world leaders, he himself isn't doing it. Not only isn't he doing it, he's not doing it much more emphatically than that arch-climate criminal, George W. Bush, whom he chastises. Since 1990, greenhouse gas emissions have risen by 13 per cent in the United States. In Canada, they have risen by 24 per cent!
What have those wild and crazy Canadians been doing to waste all that additional hydrocarbon energy? Perhaps they have been growing their economy, as former President Bill Clinton used to say when he was president.
Whatever the cause, the Canadians have been burning a lot more fossil fuels, and Mr. Martin is revealed as a hypocrite. He tells the world that there is a moral imperative that President Bush must do one thing, while he is doing the opposite. I wasn't surprised that the National Post pointed out this hypocrisy, but so did the Globe and Mail and most surprisingly so did the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. In their story that night on Mr. Martin's speech to COP/MOP, the CBC ran a graphic immediately after the clip of Mr. Martin lecturing Mr. Bush, which compared the American 13 percent to the Candian 24 percent emissions increase.
But in regard to Mr. Martin singling out President Bush, there is an additional hypocrisy that the news coverage I saw did not notice. Canada is America's largest foreign source of petroleum and natural gas. So if Mr. Martin thinks that the U. S. Is hooked on oil, then Canada is its enabler. Doesn't Mr. Martin have a moral responsibility direct from the global conscience to ban hydrocarbon exports to the U. S.?
It occurs to me that Canada recognizes the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. For Mr. Martin's sake, let's hope the ICC doesn't claim jurisdiction to enforce the global conscience or to punish hypocrisy, even when it's as spectacular as Mr. Martin's.
Do As I Say, Not As I Failed To Do || December 9, 2005
Unlike most of the days so far here in Montréal, the buzz around the Palais des Congrès this morning is not about a press briefing, an implementation workshop or a well-catered reception. Today attention is focused on the impending arrival of a celebrity of imposing stature and wide reputation in diplomatic circles: Bill Clinton. Apparently invited to participate in COP-11 by the Sierra Club through an old friend, the former President is scheduled for a quick visit with Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin and an address to the UNFCCC delegates and attendees. Normally a “side event” like this would be scheduled for one of the smallish meeting rooms scattered around the convention hall, but obviously someone who lives as large as the 42nd President will require grander accomodations.
The spectacle of Bill Clinton addressing the largely anti-American and pro-Kyoto crowd is, of course, not without a certain irony. While the Kyoto Protocol was signed on behalf of the U.S. government by Al Gore, the President himself refused to submit the treaty for Senate ratification, arguing that without “meaningful participation by key developing countries,” the United States would not seek ratification. Since the lack of any meaningful participation by the developing world was the key to getting them to sign on in the first place, the treaty was never likely to go anywhere. Clinton made no attempt to get the Senate to ratify Kyoto, but continued to send large U.S. delegations to each year’s UN negotiations - the same policy, by the way, that the Bush administration has pursued.
It’s now several years later there is still no meaningful participation by the developing nations, but now that the United States’ “failure” to implement Kyoto can be laid at the feet of George W. Bush, Bill Clinton is free to lecture the climate alarmist crowd in Montréal on the dire need for the kind of quick, decisive action on climate change he managed to so artfully avoid taking during his own presidency. To Kyoto supporters, Bill Clinton’s theoretical support for mandatory greenhouse gas restrictions is as different from the Bush Administration’s explicit rejection of them as night is to day. When it comes to judging reputations and assigning blame, however, the fact that both policies have resulted in identical outcomes - the U.S. not implementing Kyoto - is conveniently forgotten.
The Sideshow, Part II || December 9, 2005
Dec 8: Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) sponsored a side event on "Western U.S. power issues," i.e., how to reduce CO2 emissions in the American West despite the region's growing appetite for electricity, particularly coal-fired electric power. Kyotoism is spreading in the region, with 11 states adopting climate action plans, at least 5 adopting renewable portfolio standards, and 3 (I believe: CA, WA, OR) adopting some form of explicit carbon constraint. New Mexico has adopted a goal to reduce GHG emissions to 2000 levels by 2012, to 10% below 1990 levels by 2020, and 75% below by 2050. This incidentally may partly explain Sen. Bingaman's (D-N.M.) sponsorship of a Kyoto-by-Inches bill and the aid and comfort he's received from Sen. Domenici's (R-N.M.). Be that as it may, the high cost of natural gas is also pushing the region into a new era of coal-based power.
According to Jeff Fiedler of NRDC, some 129 coal-fired power plants totaling 70 GW and costing $109 billion in capital investments are planned for the next decade. Fiedler frets that if these facilities are "conventional" coal plants, this development will "lock" the West into "decades" of high carbon emissions.
To reconcile the burgeoning investment in coal generation with Kyoto-style policy, Fiedler reported, NRDC is proposing a "grand bargain" with the utilities. If the utilities agree to support a hard cap on CO2 emissions, NRDC will support Integrated Combined Coal Gassification (IGCC) and carbon sequestration as an acceptable way to comply with the cap. Fiedler's brief description of this "bargain" left me puzzled as to the nature of this proposed quid pro quo.
What would happen, I asked, if the utilties refuse to support a cap but NRDC and its allies succeed in getting one anyway--would NRDC then not accept IGCC/ sequestration as a means to comply with the cap? Fiedler pondered for a few moments, said that NRDC cares about environmental "performance," and concluded that if IGCC/sequestration performs well, then NRDC will support it. But that means the utilities have nothing to gain--they get no quid for NRDC's quo--by agreeing to a cap.
Adding to my confusion is that Fiedler twice stated that it is still too early to tell whether IGCC/sequestration will "work"--whatever that means in this context. If NRDC is truly performance-oriented, then any promise NRDC makes now to support IGCC/sequestration in the future must be entirely provisional. In contrast, the utilities' promise to support a cap would presumably be carved in stone. So it seems that NRDC might support IGCC/sequestration even if the utilities did not support a cap, and might oppose IGCC/sequestration even if the utilities did support a cap. I asked my friend David Ridenour of the National Center for Public Policy Research if he could make sense of NRDC's "grand bargain." David said it sounded to him like "New Math."
James Boyd, a Commissioner on the California Energy Commission (CEC) and former Administrator of the California Air Resources Board (CARB) was also on the panel. It was on watch that CARB issued the mandate requiring 10% of all new cars sold in California to be electric vehicles by 2003--a policy of which he remains proud. Boyd reported that CEC recently held a week-long stakeholder meeting including two days on the role of coal in California's energy mix. He noted that David Hawkins of NRDC argued that CEC should adopt a standard requiring that all imports of out-of-state coal-based power be generated in IGCC plants. Boyd said CEC decided not to adopt such a standard because California could not attempt to control other states' technology options without violating the Interstate Commerce Clause. Instead, CEC will propose a "performance standard" under which any electricity imported into California must come from generators that are at least as "clean" as combined cycle natural gas.
In the Q&A, I opined that a generation performance standard would still put California crosswise with the Interstate Commerce Clause. A standard barring imports unless the generator has an emissions profile meeting a California standard would operate as a non-tariff barrier, impeding interstate commerce. Boyd acknowledged the possibility of legal challenges, but said that CEC's lawyers decided "performance standard" is language they can live with, and we'll just have to see how the legal issues play out.-Marlo Lewis, Jr.
The Sideshow || December 8, 2005
A quick update on three "side-events" I attended at Montreal.
Dec. 6: The Pew Center had a side event on their "Climate Dialogue at Pocantico." This was a report on their big stakeholder pow-wow on climate policy after 2012. The panel affirmed their support for "parallel track" negotiations to bring in the world's "major emitters," and stressed the need for a new emphasis on "flexibility" and "technology." In the Q&A, I asked why the words "Vientienne Agreement" and "Asia Pacific Partnership" were conspicuous by their absence from the panel's remarks, since the APP emphasizes technology and flexibility, includes three major developing country emitters (China, India, and South Korea) that had ratified Kyoto but rejected its mandatory emission limits, two major industrial country emitters (U.S. and Australia) that had not ratified Kyoto, and Japan, the Kyoto host country. Panelists said they wanted to wait and see how the APP develops before rendering a judgment on it--not an explanation, however, of why they never mentioned it. Can you spell George W. Bush?
Dec. 6: The California Energy Commission, California Public Utility Commission, California Greenhouse Gas Registry had a side event on Arnold's GHG reduction plan. The chair, Diane Wittenberg, began by acknowledging, "We're a command and control kind of state." She proudly featured Arnold's statement, "I say the debate is over." Two panelists worried about California's dependence on out-of-state coal-fired electricity is growing. (Note: California has no coal-fired plants but imports about 20% of its electricity from out-of-state coal generators, making CA vulnerable to the charge of eco-hypocrisy. As some enviros put it, California has exported its coal-based power and the associated pollution to other states. While CA officials and eco-activists fret over CA's growing coal dependence, they never bother to ask what it might imply about the feasibility and sustainability of their larger agenda. The conclusion they refuse to draw: Not even California, which has the world's most aggressive energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, can get beyond coal, much less petroleum. I asked what steps CA would be prepared to take to end its coal dependence--would they ban imports of coal-based power, even if out-of-state electricity were a better buy for CA consumers and industry? Would they lobby Congress to federalize California air quality standards to prohibit coal-fired generation in other Western States, even though natural gas prices are at record levels? The panel gave no specifics, only something general about exploring "performance standards" that do not "raise interstate commerce issues."
Dec. 6: RFF and some other green groups had a panel featuring Sen. Bingaman, a climate change director from Swiss Re, and Kevin Fay from the International Climate Change Partnership. In the Q&A, I asked Bingaman: "Based on Tom Wigley's Kyoto analysis, I estimate your bill would avert 8/1000ths of a degree C of global warming by 2050. Have you considered how many steps beyond your bill the United States would have to take to address climate change effectively, and how much that would cost the U.S. economy?" Bingaman replied, "No, I have not." He went on to admonish me, "It is better to light one candle than curse the darkness." Keven Faye twice spoke of a "technology revolution" triggered by carbon constraints such as Kyoto or McCain-Lieberman. I asked: "The EIA estimated that the toughest Kyoto implmentation scenario, in which the U.S. meets its targets solely through domestic policies and measures, with no international emissions trading, would drive gasoline prices almost as high as $2.00 a gallon. Well, gas prices have been higher than that for some time, and auto sector GHG emissions keep going up. In Europe, gas taxes drive up the cost to $5.00 a gallon and even $7.00 a gallon in some countries. Yet in Europe there has been no great leap forward to a hydrogen-solar future. More people drive diesel cars than they do here, but diesel is an old, petroleum based technology. So how high do carbon prices have to go to launch the 'technology revolution' you are talking about?" Fay's answer was evasive fluff. I could not summarize it even if I wanted to.-Marlo Lewis, Jr.
More on the Right to Be Cold || December 8, 2005
Lloyd Axworthy, the former Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, moderated the "Right to be Cold" event. This was significant. First, he was Minister when Canada signed Kyoto in 1997. Second - and he emphasized this in his introduction - Axworthy was one of the key advocates of the "Responsibility to Protect" doctrine that was adopted by the UN General Assembly this past September. This document holds that a nation has a duty - a responsibility- to protect the human rights of its citizens. If not, then other countries have the right to intervene in the internal affairs of that country.
The origin of this UN document was a report that Canada had a lead in writing in 2001. The idea was spurred by nations' refusal to intervene in Rwanda in 1994 and the precedent set by the Kosovo intervention in 1999.
Many foreign policy scholars have noted the restrictions - the criteria - that apply to the "responsibility to protect". This is supposed to guarantee the limited scope of the doctrine and therefore pacify the fears of many countries that the US might announce that their governments are failing in their "responsibility". In fact, many Democratic Party intellectuals have made this argument in order to reassure their party base that this doctrine was not a license to broadly intervene in the affairs of other countries.
But curiously in the "Right to be Cold" event, Lloyd Aworthy said that the Responsibility to Protect includes the environment and global warming. Climate change, Axworthy continued, is a human rights issue! Certainly this was the thrust of the Petition that was given to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
What this shows is that talk of environmental or ''cultural rights" (like the UNESCO cultural diversity treaty describes) is not all hot air. This is just another step in the construction of an international norm of "group or collective rights". Once this idea becomes entrenched, it becomes that much more difficult to argue in favor of individual freedom, limited government and natural human rights.
COPs and Robbers: Giving Uncle Sam the Arctic Shakedown || December 8, 2005
This afternoon I attended one of the many COP-11 side events, this one announcing a human rights petition filed against the United States for various climate crimes. A group called The Inuit Circumpolar Conference is petitioning the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (a sub-unit of the Organization of American States) to declare that the United States (and only the United States) is violating the human rights of the Inuit through greenhouse gas emissions which are asserted to be causing the “destruction of the Arctic environment” via global warming.
The petition calls for the United States to reverse its current policy and adopt mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions and “co-operate with the community of nations” to further limit global emissions. This is, of course, not an unusual demand at United Nations climate conferences, and even emotional appeals made under the banner of human rights aren’t new. This particular event, however, was unusually heavy on the anecdotal testimony of Inuit hunters and “elders” who described changes in wind direction and intensity, ice thickness and various seasonal weather effects. One of the witnesses also seemed to suggest that the angle at which the light from the sun and various stars shone had also changed. This odd example of alleged climate-related catastrophe was neither challenged nor clarified during the program.
The host of the event, Ms. Sheila Watt-Cloutier, provided the other key theme of the event by going to great, repetitive lengths to assure members of the audience that the petition was not motivated by greed. “This is not about money,” she declared several times. Given that no one opposed to the petition was going to be heard from, her automatic defensiveness struck at least a couple members of the audience as suspicious.
The petition calls for the U.S. to “help [the] Inuit adapt to unavoidable impacts of climate change” in addition to limiting its emissions. Given the extraordinarily unlikely prospect of the White House throwing out its entire climate policy because of a 63-signatory petition or an unenforceable rebuke from the Organization of American States, the obvious conclusion is that the “help” demanded from the U.S. government for adaptation is the only realistic outcome the petitioners could be expecting. Ms. Watt-Cloutier did not put a price tag on the level of help she hopes her constituents to receive, but one can probably assume it would be a figure large enough to raise charges that the petition was, in fact, all about money.
Compelling Evidence || December 7, 2005
What do you think constitutes "compelling evidence"of climate change? How about a time-lapsed animation showing a gradually baking earth over the next century? This was the introduction to a panel on "Canada's plan for honoring its Kyoto committment".
Before learning about "the plan", consider the extent of what Canada hopes to accomplish. If current projections hold, Canada will need to cut its GHG emissions by 30% in 2012 to meet its Kyoto target. "No one has ever succeeded in reducing this amount of CO2", we were told. The ''plan" includes: voluntary, regulatory & market-based approaches, including the use of offsets (i.e. carbon credits), the Partership Fund (a multi-billion dollar government fund to help out provinces), an auto agreement that is "voluntary", but not really, because if auto producers don't volunteer then they will suffer regulation to that effect, and "the one tonne challenge" (each person is encouraged to emit one tonne less CO2).
One curious statistic that was raised during the panel was that between 1990 and 2000, emissions grew by 14% in the US versus 21% in Canada. This trend continued during the period 2000 to 2004. It seems logical that if emissions grew slower in the US than in Canada, and the US is not part of Kyoto, then perhaps Canada should adopt a similar "environmentally sound" strategy and abandon Kyoto. In fact, it was a gentleman from Greenpeace who challenged the panel during the Q&A session about Canada's gap with the US. He said that Canada was one of the worst GHG offenders and that "we need to get serious about regulation". But Canada's regulations are strict, came the response. Blame the EU instead. Íts regulations are too lenient. To truly reduce GHG emissions, we must "produce industry more efficiently than it otherwise would be produced".
One example of this was shared by a a gentleman from a Quebecois NGO. It received over $100,000 from the goverenment to support its "one-tonne challenge" marketing campaign. The NGO did a study about who it should target. It launched a website and did some radio ads. I found it amusing that the NGO thought it a waste to target SUV drivers and instead to focus on people who "shared our values". So the NGO proudly showed us photos of the "one-tonne challenge" posters that were displayed at various bus shelters around town. After all, convincing people who take the bus regularly that they should continue taking the bus because it's good for the planet, is a real accomplishment.
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.
The Team Arrives || December 6, 2005CEI'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