Back-tracking, Arm-twisting Pervade Bonn Global Warming Meeting
Sounding like the Sonny and Cher hit recording of the 1960s, the Kyoto Protocol beat goes on. But it's not sounding as good as it did when it was first released in 1997.
That is how some observers interpreted the June meeting in Bonn, Germany, where delegates representing more than 100 nations attempted to lay the groundwork for the fifth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Framework Convention on Climate Change. That meeting is scheduled for October.
More than 80 nations have signed the Kyoto Protocol, but it cannot take effect until ratified by countries, including the U.S., that have been identified as the world's largest polluters.
"The Kyoto Protocol looked good enough to accept in 1997, but like a poached egg too soon removed from the heat, now that it has cracked open, the inside is runny, messy, and not very appealing," said Henry Lamb, who covered the two-week event for WorldNetDaily. "Still, they meet and meet, and the Kyoto Protocol grows less appealing, even to those who accepted it in 1977."
Lamb's assessment was echoed in London, where New Zealand's Environment Minister Simon Upton told a news conference, "At this point I honestly believe that the protocol has as much chance of being still-born as it does of coming into force."
Lamb, who is executive vice president of the Environmental Conservation Organization (çco) in Hollow Rock, Tennessee, and chairman of Sovereignty International, noted in his reports the heated dispute over land use and growing influence of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on government representatives charged with seeking solutions to global warming.
A major bone of contention continues to be whether the United States should be allowed to define croplands and grasslands, as well as trees, as "forestry"--that is, carbon sinks that absorb carbon dioxide. Should this be permitted, fossil fuel use in this country could remain at levels substantially higher than envisioned by the protocol's supporters.
"Why should the U.S., or any other country, for that matter, count the carbon dioxide that is absorbed by vegetation as pollution," asks Lamb. "Obviously, it should not be counted as pollution."
But the European Union and many other nations see things differently. For them, the critical issue is that carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels must be reduced, a view also held by the Climate Action Network (CAN).
CAN and others worry that if the U.S. prevails in its effort to broaden the definition of forestry, the country's emissions-reduction target--which under the protocol stands at 7 percent below 1990 emissions levels--would be revised upward, permitting a 5 percent increase over 1990 levels. In other words, thanks to its trees and vegetation, the U.S. would be able meet its Kyoto mandate without reducing its energy consumption.
"No, no, this will never do," reported Lamb, mocking anti-growth environmentalists. "America must be forced to reduce its 'luxury consumption.'" Lamb noted that last November in Buenos Aires, only days after Hurricane Mitch, one delegate told the conference that America's luxury emissions "were responsible for the death and devastation in Central America."
According to Lamb, CAN, the United Nations, and those who stand to gain the most from Kyoto view America's vegetation as part of a "global commons." Its ability to absorb carbon dioxide, therefore, should be shared with the world.
All of which suggests that, should the Kyoto Protocol be ratified, the U.S. might very well give up its right to control its own land-use programs.
Standing in the way of that outcome, at least for now, is the Byrd-Hagel Senate Resolution that prevents ratification of the protocol unless all nations play by the same rules. But that could change should the Democrats once again become a majority.
"The Clinton/Gore administration is apparently counting on a Democratic sweep in 2000, because the Protocol has not even been submitted to the Senate for consideration," Lamb said. Nevertheless, he added, the administration is acting as though ratification has taken place, noting that recent efforts to tighten U.S. clean air standards and restrictions on land-use changes reflect Kyoto's proposed guidelines.
During the Bonn meeting, industry representatives again found themselves outnumbered by non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including environmentalists, who aggressively lobbied the 661 delegates from 137 nations.
Of the 1,389 registered participants attending the Bonn conference, said Lamb, more than half were there to promote their agenda.
"The arm-twisting is relentless," said Lamb. "From piles of propaganda stacked on tables throughout the building, to sophisticated multi-media presentations, the environmental organizations preach their gospel."
Lamb argues that the growth of NGOs is probably linked to the billions of dollars given to them by governments. He cited State of the World 1999, the new Worldwatch Institute annual report, which counts 20,000 NGOs in operation today, compared to just 1,000 in 1955.
"It is little wonder that they attend every climate change meeting en masse to urge the delegates to continue the global warming welfare program," Lamb said.