A Heated Letter From Bonn

BONN – Word has it an historic agreement emerged from the negotiations in Bonn, Germany, over how to implement the Kyoto "glob

Horner Op-Ed in The Washington Times



BONN – Word has it an historic agreement emerged from the negotiations in Bonn, Germany, over how to implement the Kyoto "global warming" accords. Listening solely to the professional climate negotiators vested in proclaiming such victory, one can hardly be blamed for believing this was the case. I observed something different. Let's review this breathlessly reported achievement, described without proportion by chief New Zealand delegate Peter Hodgson as "probably the most comprehensive and difficult agreement in world history." There is a running, universal understanding at such sessions that, barring some major faux pas, at the proclaimed hour whatever can be agreed upon will be hailed as major progress. The press bites every time. Bonn negotiators addressed specifics of some of the numerous Kyoto provisions requiring narrowing before they can mean anything. Certain provisions were indeed moved toward comprehensibility. In truth, however, the bulk of those agreements actually consist of vague palliatives with a promise to continue talking about the issue. That is, for the most part there were merely agreements to agree at a later date. Still, the reason we are told of significant ground broken at this particular session is actually quite illuminating, both into the farcical process and Orwellian pettiness by the European Union. In order to have any document to waive, the EU abandoned rigidity on certain issues which for the better part of the past year they maintained were essential for the treaty to possess "environmental integrity". This intransigent contractual revisionism torpedoed last November's talks in The Hague. There, the EU sensed the U.S. team's desperation that Al Gore would not prevail in his courtroom challenge to the presidential election results. They rejected U.S. pleas that countries be permitted to use "sinks" (forests, etc., consuming greenhouse gases), and trading in emission "credits" to an appreciable degree toward satisfying treaty obligations, as clearly contemplated by Kyoto. Soon the United States realized that the EU would accept only complete surrender, and the talks stalled. Europeans crowed that the United States sought to degrade the treaty's "environmental integrity." In truth, the U.S. objective had consistently remained pursuing the supposed goal of reducing greenhouse gas concentrations while the science develops over whether that is advisable and if so to what degree. Now EU abandonment of those demands is "a worthwhile price to pay," per their environment minister, presumably because it now involves no concessions to that wretched United States. Still, EU childishness chased the world's largest economy, and thus largest emitter of greenhouse gases, out of the deal. For this we can only be thankful, and learn from the experience, about the EU and otherwise. Other lessons: • Allies Japan, Canada and Australia demonstrated no faith in U.S. promises of a Kyoto alternative, more equitable and consistent with the state of the science. They disdained pleas to hold tight in the name of some form of "no regrets" package – including, unlike Kyoto, the bulk of the world's population and likely greater emission reductions with far fewer human consequences. While their closing rhetorical cheerleading in Bonn is a far cry from ratification, they embarrassed President Bush by not at least stressing the persistent desirability of an alternative. • When claiming to abandon something, abandon it. Walking-the-talk by removing our signature from a treaty we say we have "left" demonstrates our refusal to be pressured into Kyoto. This would dramatically reduce others' motivation to pursue, e.g., the ad hoc Bonn session, moving the world instead toward an achievable, reasonable, compromise. Instead, there remains a valid, legally obtained U.S. signature on file at the United Nations committing us to Kyoto. While not ratification, it does carry obligations until some dispositive step notifies the world that that document no longer bears the U.S. imprimatur. Rhetoric doesn't count. The president can simply rescind the signature the same way it was created. We (Cooler Heads) pleaded for this step, and why the administration refused is mystifying. • The next step is clear. The United States asserts that its continued formal participation as an "Annex I" country – to a treaty it has no intention of inflicting on its citizenry – impedes others from achieving their goal: bringing Kyoto quickly into effect through ratification by countries totaling at least 55 percent of the covered emissions. Rescinding our signature, thereby removing our contribution of over one-third of the (present) total, permits others to move forward with far fewer required ratifications. The United States then proceeds with its commitment to continue the world's foremost investment in understanding the climate system and man's possible impact. A win-win deal, right? In reality, after their ritual hysteria, EU countries will likely instead fabricate further reasons to continue their four-year boycott of ratifying Kyoto. Should U.S. opposition politicians join the EU shrillness, prior to actually rescinding the signature the president of course reserves the right to ask for a Senate ratification vote. His political supporters must understand, however, to abstain. The Constitution specifically contemplates not all senators voting on every treaty, requiring in the relevant section unlike elsewhere, that two-thirds of those Senators voting yields ratification. Expose the cheap virtue of complainers demanding something they presume could never be ratified – most Republicans would vote "nay," while most Democrats assure us they'd save the planet if only the mean Republicans would let them. Bring this abhorrent wealth transfer to the Senate floor. No Bush supporters vote. The document is pulled from the floor, or loses outright. No, the Democrats will not allow Kyoto ratification to be on their hands. But adept maneuvering by President Bush could "saddle" them with the great achievement: "Democrats kill Kyoto."


Copyright © 2001 The Washington Times