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Obama's climate negotiator pulling America into a new Kyoto Protocol

Is the U.S. being hoodwinked on climate change?

By —— Bio and Archives--December 6, 2012

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On December 5, U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change, Todd Stern told the United Nations Climate Change Conference now underway in Qatar, that “The Durban Platform represents an agreement for the 2020s and beyond—one that will be applicable to all and therefore have the potential to achieve the ambition we all seek.”

That is what Western politicians have been telling their citizens for the past year.  They must think none of us actually read the Durban Platform. For if they did, anyone could see we are being hoodwinked. It would not be “applicable to all” at all. It would be another Kyoto Protocol.

Here’s why.

At last year’s U.N. Climate Change Conference, delegates, including those from the U.S. and Canada, endorsed the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action. Under this agreement, the American, Canadian and other governments pledged to work with the U.N. to establish by 2015 a global apparatus to force countries to enable legally-binding GHG reduction plans starting in 2020.

The Durban plan advances—“in a balanced fashion,” the U.N. asserts—the implementation of the December 2010 Cancun Agreements. Stern has stated that the Cancun Agreement “is a very good step and a step that’s very much consistent with U.S. interests and will help move…the world down a path toward a broader global response to changing ‚Äì to stopping climate change.”

Besides the lunacy of any plan to “stop climate change”, it is important for people to understand that Cancun has an opt-out clause for developing countries that allows them to agree to legally-binding emission cuts yet never actually carry them out. Developed nations do not have this option. Cancun states this twice:

  • At the beginning of the Cancun Agreement it is stated: “...Parties should cooperate in achieving the peaking of global and national greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, recognizing that the time frame for peaking will be longer in developing countries, and bearing in mind that social and economic development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities of developing countries…”
  • In the section entitled “Nationally appropriate mitigation actions by developing country Parties”, the first clause starts: “Reaffirming that social and economic development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities of developing country Parties, and that the share of global emissions originating in developing countries will grow to meet their social and development needs…”

In other words, if a Cancun-based treaty became international law, GHG reduction would proceed in developing nations only to the extent that it does not interfere with their “first and overriding priorities” of “social and economic development and poverty eradication.” Developed countries would be held to their emission reduction obligations regardless of the impact on their societies.

Since actions to significantly reduce GHG emissions will usually interfere with development priorities, developing countries will soon realize that an agreement based on Cancun will not limit their emissions. Such a treaty would then work in the same asymmetric fashion as Kyoto. That the U.S., Canada, Japan, New Zealand and Russia have said they will not participate in a second phase to the Kyoto Protocol may prove immaterial if any legally-binding treaty based on the Cancun Agreement ever comes into force.

Under the Cancun Agreement, UN monitoring is to be much more intrusive in developed countries than in developing countries.

For example, the world is expected to simply believe China when they assert that certain domestic GHG reductions have been accomplished - the UN cannot inspect. This has the strong potential to result in significant reporting fraud as has occurred in a number of other fields concerning China (see here and here for examples).

International inspection and monitoring of developed countries’ emissions will be very strict, however. The U.N. already do this, last year rebuking Australia “for poor reporting of progress to cut greenhouse gases” and “ordering” them to do better. It is hard to imagine the U.N. “rebuking” China, or ordering them to do anything.

If a Cancun Agreement-based treaty becomes international law, we will have little idea of what emission cuts will actually be happening in countries such as China. Once again, there will be anything but a level playing field between developed and developing countries no matter what Stern or our politicians say.

In the final analysis, the only really significant difference between a Cancun-based GHG reduction treaty and Kyoto may be that developing countries are expected to submit their intended emission cuts to the UN. But their obligations to carry those cuts into effect would appear to be essentially meaningless. The current approach is clearly designed to persuade the United States to participate in an agreement for binding international GHG emission limits. Then, the U.S. and everyone else would be effectively included in an extension to the Kyoto Protocol after all.

It is quite possible that Todd Stern and his political masters in Washington know this. In his December 5 speech at the climate conference, he also encouraged discussion of “the principle of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capacities.” Stern concluded, “The United States would welcome such a discussion, because unless we can find common ground on that principle and the way it should apply in the world of the 2020s, we won’t succeed in producing a new Durban Platform agreement. And we have to succeed. So let’s have that discussion.”

Let’s not!

Tom Harris -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Tom Harris is Executive Director of the International Climate Science Coalition.

Older articles by Tom Harris

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