Day By Day

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Bush Strikes a Deal on Climate Change

Well, he's done it again. President Bush is redefining the terms of debate on climate change. Yesterday he announced an agreement with five Asian and Pacific nations to deploy cleaner energy technologies.

The Guardian reports:

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush's answer to global warming is technology. In a move to counter the Kyoto Protocol that requires mandatory cuts in so-called greenhouse gas emissions, he is making the technology pitch as part of a partnership with five Asian and Pacific nations, including China and India. The idea is to get them to commit to cleaner energy production as a way to curtail air pollution that most scientists believe is causing the Earth to warm up.

The administration announced late Wednesday that it has reached an agreement with the five countries to create a new partnership to deploy cleaner technologies whenever possible to produce energy.

The agreement does not bind any of the countries to specific emission reductions, adhering to the Bush doctrine that dealing with climate change should be voluntary and not imposed by mandatory reduction targets and timetables.

The new pact... was viewed by senior White House officials as a significant step toward establishing a framework in which rapidly emerging industrial countries will be encouraged and helped to produce cleaner energy as a way to keep climate-changing chemicals out of the atmosphere, especially carbon from fossil fuels.

Bush called it a ``new results-oriented partnership'' that he said ``will allow our nations to develop and accelerate deployment of cleaner, more efficient energy technologies to meet national pollution reduction, energy security and climate change concerns in ways that reduce poverty and promote economic development.''

Read it here.

Of course environmental activists immediately branded the agreement unworkable and demanded a return to Kyoto.

The Standard [Hong Kong] reports:

The United States, China and four Asia-Pacific nations have announced a partnership to cut greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, but environmental groups dismissed the plan as unworkable....

Greenpeace spokeswoman Catherine Fitzpatrick said: ``The suggested scheme is, unlike Kyoto, a voluntary scheme, and all evidence shows that voluntary schemes do not work.

``Skulking around making secretive, selective deals will not accomplish'' a reduction in emissions.

Friends of the Earth Australia said the proposed alliance ``does not address the immediate need to cut greenhouse pollution by at least 60 percent by 2050.

``By staying out of the main game - the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gases - the US and Australia continue to be open to criticism that they are only looking after their narrowly defined interests at the expense of the rest of the world,'' said FOE spokesman Cam Walker.

The leader of the opposition Australian Greens party, Bob Brown, dismissed the new agreement as ``a coal pact'' involving four of the world's biggest coal producers - China, the US, India and Australia. It is designed to ``defend the coal industry in an age where it's the biggest industry contributing deliberately to the global warming threat to Australia and the planet,'' he said.

Calling it a ``Machiavellian pact,'' Clive Hamilton, the executive director of the Australia Institute, an environmental think-tank, said the main beneficiaries of the initiative ``will be Australian coal companies, some of the world's biggest greenhouse polluters. Study after study has shown that voluntary agreements such as those foreshadowed in this treaty do not work.''

In Geneva, the head of the WWF's climate change program, Jennifer Morgan, said: ``A deal on climate change that doesn't limit pollution is the same as a peace plan that allows guns to be fired.''

An entirely predictable response. Read it here.

According to the Times the UK was out of the loop on this one.

The British Government appears to have been caught unawares by the announcement of a six-country pact spearheaded by the United States and Australia to promote cleaner energy technologies across the Asia-Pacific.

The agreement, which also brings in India, China, Japan and South Korea, was negotiated in secret over the past year and unveiled today on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific security forum in Laos.

Read it here.

That's right, we're supposed to believe that a major pact involving the US, India and Australia was negotiated and the British government had not an inkling. Right! Sure! Tony just wants to keep his distance on this one.

The EU is also upset and claims that no voluntary agreement can ever work.

BBC reports:

The European Union says it will push for legally binding global restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions.

A spokeswoman's comments came after the announcement of a voluntary pact, based on new technology, between the US and five Asia-Pacific states.

She also told BBC News that the new pact was unlikely to bring a significant reduction in emissions.

The EU's intention to pursue further legally binding reductions could lead to political disputes later this year.

Read it here.

The differences in approach could not be greater. Europe and the left just cannot get beyond rigid, command driven, regulatory approaches to problems while Bush promotes flexible, voluntary, incentivised arrangements. I would note that nearly all the signatories to this pact are clearly outperforming their critics in the economic sphere. I wonder why?


Richard Black at the BBC sorts through the critiques of Bush's initiative as well as its claims. Not surprisingly, he boils it down to a choice between European and American leadership on environmental matters and worries that Europe is too divided to effectively challenge Bush.

Read him here.

Apparently the EU sees it that way too. A few hours ago they announced that they would be offering a "legally binding" pact on climate control as an alternative to Bush's plan.

Read it here.

No comments: