October 23, 2009
China-India Accord to Scuttle UN Climate Treaty
On October 22, an accord was signed by Xie Zhenhua, China's vice minister at the National Development and Reform Commission, and Jairam Ramesh, India's environment minister, in New Delhi. The memorandum provides an alternative framework to counter pressure from America and Europe to adopt mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions in a new UN treaty. The two Asian powers will collaborate on the development of renewable power projects and improved energy efficiency programs, while rejecting any outside mandates that would slow economic growth.
The United Nations has been holding forums around the world to build support for a new climate treaty to be drafted in Copenhagen in December to replace the expiring Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto document did not require the developing countries to do anything about reducing emissions. The United States and European Union have been trying to find some formula that would persuade the developing countries to sign on to the new treaty. China and India, along with Brazil, Mexico and South Africa, have been adamant about staying out of any global requirement. By forming regional alignments that keep policy in the hands of national governments, the developing countries expect to be able to resist Western and UN pressure.
It is easier to stay independent of the climate paranoia if one does not believe the planet is in peril. Xiao Ziniu, director general of the Beijing Climate Centre, told the British Guardian newspaper recently that "There is no agreed conclusion about how much change is dangerous....Whether the climate turns warmer or cooler, there are both positive and negative effects....In Chinese history, there have been many periods warmer than today." He disputed the disaster warnings of the UNIPCC, saying, "The accuracy of the prediction is very low because the climate is affected by many mechanisms we do not fully understand."
An article published in China's Science Times on September 7 cited a study done by Ding Zhongli, vice president of the Science Academy of China. It argued that there is no solid scientific evidence to strictly correlate global temperature rise and CO2 concentrations. Professor Ding noted that some geologists believe that global temperature is related to solar activities and glacial periods, meaning human activity is only one factor that can cause climate change. "Up to now not a single scientist has figured out the weight ratio of each factor on global temperature change," he wrote.
The author of the Science Times article, Wang Jin, used Ding's study as part of his larger argument that, "the massive propaganda ‘human activity induced the global temperature increase' has been accepted by the majority of the society in some countries, and it has become a political and diplomatic issue. Why do the developed countries put an arguable scientific problem on the international negotiation table? The real intention is not for the global temperature increase, but for the restriction of the economic development of the developing countries." The problem for Beijing is, according to Wang, "How can China fight for its right to emit while continuing to develop its economy?"
The answer is to confront the issue head on. At a UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Thailand Oct. 5, China and the Group of 77 developing nations reiterated their opposition to any binding commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from "poor" countries and countries with "economies in transition." They were prepared to walk out of the climate talks if there was any language in the drafts leading to Copenhagen that would limit their actions. As a result, the two weeks of talks in Bangkok ended "without a consensus" on how to proceed.
The danger is that the West will draft a treaty that will only apply to America and Europe, crippling their economies. This was certainly the hope of the Nobel Committee when it awarded its Peace Prize to President Barack Obama. "Thanks to Obama's initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting," said the Nobel proclamation.
It was also on President Obama's mind when he accepted the award, "We cannot accept the growing threat posed by climate change, which could forever damage the world that we pass on to our children -- sowing conflict and famine; destroying coastlines and emptying cities. And that's why all nations must now accept their share of responsibility for transforming the way that we use energy," said Obama, whose alarmist rhetoric was almost verbatim with what he had said at the UN Climate Summit September 22.
In 2007, the Nobel Peace Prize was shared by former Vice President Al Gore and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (UNIPCC), "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change." The 2007 award was also a slap at the Bush Administration which had refused to accept the Kyoto Protocol. Shortly after the award to Obama was announced, Gore said he was optimistic that a new treaty will be approved in Copenhagen.
The work of the UNIPCC is cited in the "cap and trade" American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454) passed by a narrow vote in the House last June. On September 30, Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) introduced the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act (S. 1733) which will be the vehicle for climate legislation in the Senate. The bill states, "the United States should lead the global community in combating the threat of global climate change and reaching a robust international agreement to address global warming under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change."
The Kerry-Boxer draft aims to reduce CO2 emissions 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 compared to the 17 percent cut set in the House bill. As Bradford Plumer noted in a blog at The New Republic Sept. 30, "thanks to the recession, we'll be 8.5 percent below 2005 levels by the end of this year, which is why Boxer stumped for a steeper reduction." In other words, economic ruin is an integral part of the Green agenda.
The Congressional targets are still less than the goal of a 40 percent cut in emissions from 1990 levels by 2020 being pushed by the UNFCCC.
The most controversial part of the Nobel Committee's award statement was the assertion that Obama's "diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population." Basing American policy on foreign opinion is not the proper duty of a President of the United States whose job is to lead his own nation to greatness. But the Nobel Committee was also being delusional in an ironic way. The majority of the world's population wants to progress and improve its material standard of living. The governments which represent them outside America and Europe reject the notion that they should give up their aspirations for a better world to appease an unfounded climate paranoia among Western liberals. And they are right.
William R. Hawkins is a consultant specializing in international economic and national security issues. He is a former economics professor and Republican Congressional staff member.