Bali Deal Is Worse Than Kyoto
“After 11 days of negotiations,
governments have come up with a compromise deal that could even lead
to emission increases. The highly compromised political deal is largely
attributable to the position of the United States, which was heavily
influenced by fossil fuel and automobile industry interests. The failure
to reach agreement led to the talks spilling over into an all-night
extracts from a press release by Friends of the Earth. So what? Well
it was published on December 11 - I mean to say, December 11 1997. The
US had just put a wrecking ball through the Kyoto protocol. George Bush
was innocent; he was busy executing prisoners in Texas. Its climate
negotiators were led by Albert Arnold Gore.
Union had asked for greenhouse gas cuts of 15% by 2010. Gore’s
team drove them down to 5.2% by 2012. Then the Americans did something
worse: they destroyed the whole agreement.
Most of the
other governments insisted that the cuts be made at home. But Gore demanded
a series of loopholes big enough to drive a Hummer through. The rich
nations, he said, should be allowed to buy their cuts from other countries.
When he won, the protocol created an exuberant global market in fake
emissions cuts. The western nations could buy “hot air”
from the former Soviet Union. Because the cuts were made against emissions
in 1990, and because industry in that bloc had subsequently collapsed,
the former Soviet Union countries would pass well below the bar. Gore’s
scam allowed them to sell the gases they weren’t producing to
other nations. He also insisted that rich nations could buy nominal
cuts from poor ones. Entrepreneurs in India and China have made billions
by building factories whose primary purpose is to produce greenhouse
gases, so that carbon traders in the rich world will pay to clean them
of this sabotage is that the market for low-carbon technologies has
remained moribund. Without an assured high value for carbon cuts, without
any certainty that government policies will be sustained, companies
have continued to invest in the safe commercial prospects offered by
fossil fuels rather than gamble on a market without an obvious floor.
that the rich nations would not make real cuts, Gore also guaranteed
that the poor ones scoffed when we asked them to do as we don’t.
When George Bush announced, in 2001, that he would not ratify the Kyoto
protocol, the world cursed and stamped its foot. But his intransigence
affected only the US. Gore’s team ruined it for everyone.
power of the American delegation is not the only thing that hasn’t
changed. After the Kyoto protocol was agreed, the then British environment
secretary, John Prescott, announced: “This is a truly historic
deal which will help curb the problems of climate change. For the first
time it commits developed countries to make legally binding cuts in
their emissions.” Ten years later, the current environment secretary,
Hilary Benn, told us that “this is an historic breakthrough and
a huge step forward. For the first time ever, all the world’s
nations have agreed to negotiate on a deal to tackle dangerous climate
change.” Do these people have a chip inserted?
In both cases,
the US demanded terms that appeared impossible for the other nations
to accept. Before Kyoto, the other negotiators flatly rejected Gore’s
proposals for emissions trading. So his team threatened to sink the
talks. The other nations capitulated, but the US still held out on technicalities
until the very last moment, when it suddenly appeared to concede. In
1997 and in 2007 it got the best of both worlds: it wrecked the treaty
and was praised for saving it.
is an idiot. Our diplomats are suckers. American negotiators have pulled
the same trick twice, and for the second time our governments have fallen
still two years to go, but so far the new agreement is even worse than
the Kyoto protocol. It contains no targets and no dates. A new set of
guidelines also agreed at Bali extend and strengthen the worst of Gore’s
trading scams, the clean development mechanism. Benn and the other dupes
are cheering and waving their hats as the train leaves the station at
last, having failed to notice that it is travelling in the wrong direction.
Gore does a better job of governing now he is out of office, he was
no George Bush. He wanted a strong, binding and meaningful protocol,
but American politics had made it impossible. In July 1997, the Senate
had voted 95-0 to sink any treaty which failed to treat developing countries
in the same way as it treated the rich ones. Though they knew this was
impossible for developing countries to accept, all the Democrats lined
up with all the Republicans. The Clinton administration had proposed
a compromise: instead of binding commitments for the developing nations,
Gore would demand emissions trading. But even when he succeeded, he
announced that “we will not submit this agreement for ratification
[in the Senate] until key developing nations participate”. Clinton
could thus avoid an unwinnable war.
So why, regardless
of the character of its leaders, does the US act this way? Because,
like several other modern democracies, it is subject to two great corrupting
forces. I have written before about the role of the corporate media
- particularly in the US - in downplaying the threat of climate change
and demonising anyone who tries to address it. I won’t bore you
with it again, except to remark that at 3pm eastern standard time on
Saturday, there were 20 news items on the front page of the Fox News
website. The climate deal came 20th, after “Bikini-wearing stewardesses
sell calendar for charity” and “Florida store sells ‘Santa
Hates You’ T-shirt”.
Let us consider
instead the other great source of corruption: campaign finance. The
Senate rejects effective action on climate change because its members
are bought and bound by the companies that stand to lose. When you study
the tables showing who gives what to whom, you are struck by two things.
One is the
quantity. Since 1990, the energy and natural resources sector - mostly
coal, oil, gas, logging and agribusiness - has given $418m to federal
politicians in the US. Transport companies have given $355m. The other
is the width: the undiscriminating nature of this munificence. The big
polluters favour the Republicans, but most of them also fund Democrats.
During the 2000 presidential campaign, oil and gas companies lavished
money on Bush, but they also gave Gore $142,000, while transport companies
gave him $347,000. The whole US political system is in hock to people
who put their profits ahead of the biosphere.
believe all this nonsense about waiting for the next president to sort
it out. This is a much bigger problem than George Bush. Yes, he is viscerally
opposed to tackling climate change. But viscera don’t have much
to do with it. Until the American people confront their political funding
system, their politicians will keep speaking from the pocket, not the
Monbiot is the author of the best selling books The Age of
Consent: a manifesto for a new world order and Captive State: the corporate
takeover of Britain. He writes a weekly column for the Guardian newspaper.
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