Looking for Copenhagen repeat, climate conference opens in Bonn

The third round of UN "climate change" negotiations this year kicked off on Monday with representatives from 178 governments meeting in Bonn, Germany. The conference runs August 2-6 and is being attended by over 3,000 government delegates and representatives from business, environmentalist and research organizations. The purpose is to continue work on the text of what the UN hopes will be a binding treaty to be adopted at the Cancun meeting Nov. 29-Dec. 10. This looks like a replay of last year's negotiating process which failed to produce an agreement in Copenhagen due to the clash of national interests on fundamental issues--- and it is.

The agenda poses the same unacceptable terms for the United States and the other Western industrial nations as has been the case since the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was created in 1994. The new Executive Director is Christiana Figueres, a British trained anthropologist from Costa Rica who has worked with the UNFCCC since its establishment. She believes "More stringent actions to reduce emissions cannot be much longer postponed and industrial nations must lead." Her country is not, however, one of those designated to reduce emissions and suffer a fall in living standards as a result. She represents those who want to use the UNFCCC process to redistribute wealth on a global scale from the West to "the rest."

Though 190 entities have signed the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, only 37 are "industrial economies"(almost all European) subject to mandatory emission cuts under the agreement. The rest could sign on without any obligation other than to pressure the Western countries to go into economic decline. The Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) is one of the primary forums in Bonn working on ways to increase the pressure on the West for deeper cuts beyond 2012. Fortunately, the United States has not ratified Kyoto. Even President Barack Obama could not accept an agreement that was not universal in its application at Copenhagen.

Yet, the UNFCCC continues to adhere to the two-track system where all the costs are to be borne by the developed countries while the mass of developing countries-led by China, India, Brazil and South Africa, remain free of anti-growth mandates. The developed countries are urged to limit the growth of emissions, rather than be required to reduce their emissions. The developed states are to transfer technology and capital to the developing states and watch passively as industries migrate from countries with restrictions to those who remain free and open for growth. The "richest" countries are expected to provide the poor countries with $30 billion by 2012 and $100 billion per year by 2020 to fund climate adaptation programs.

According to the UNFCCC, "The ultimate objective of both treaties [Kyoto and the one planned for Cancun] is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system." The political reality is that governments are working much harder to gain competitive advantages from the talks than to combat climate change, an issue few actually take seriously.

Indeed, there seems to be far more interest in gaining a slice of the $30 billion promised in Copenhagen than in setting emission goals. The debate even on the Green blogs is mainly about whether the $30 billion will be "new" money or just relabeled foreign aid funds, and whether the funds will be distributed "fairly" through the UNFCCC or by the World Bank. Friends of the Earth opposes the World Bank because it is "controlled by rich countries and is the largest international lender for fossil fuel projects."

The practical reality is that these UN meetings give participants an excuse to party at luxury hotels and fancy restaurants at the expense of taxpayers and donors, all in the name of imposing a simpler life-style upon the rest of us.