BONN, Germany — 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.
The last minute rush to avoid failure in Kyoto pushed the delegates
to accept ambiguous language, words that have little or no meaning, and
ideas that are little more than fantasies. Eighteen months of meetings
and negotiations have been unable to rekindle the flame to finishing
cooking the egg.
Still, they meet, and meet, and the Kyoto Protocol grows less
appealing, even to those who accepted it in 1977.
The land use change
and forestry (“LULUCF” in U.N. jargon) provision in Article 2 was
added at the very last moment in a midnight session, well past the
scheduled hour for adjournment. No one knew then precisely what it
meant, but it was accepted anyway. Now that the delegates have had time
to consider it, they are poles apart on what they want the provision to
The United States wants croplands and grassland, as well as trees to
be defined as “forestry.” All vegetation, and the soil in which it
grows, absorbs carbon dioxide. By expanding the definition of
“forestry,” the U.S. expects to count the carbon reduction caused by
absorption into the vegetation as a major part of its overall carbon
reduction requirement. A U.S. victory on this single negotiating point
could make a significant difference in the amount of fossil fuel which
may be used in America. If vegetation is absorbing the carbon dioxide
generated by human activity (and it is) it cannot cause global warming.
Why should the U.S., or any other country, for that matter, count the
carbon dioxide that is absorbed by vegetation as pollution? Obviously,
it should not be counted as pollution.
The European Union, and many other nations have a totally different
view. It doesn’t seem to matter that carbon emissions generated by human
activity may be absorbed by vegetation. To them, it is the production of
carbon emission from fossil fuel that must be reduced. This position is
also advanced by the Climate Action Network (CAN), a coalition of
environmental organizations that has participated in every major U.N.
environmental conference since 1972.
CAN says that if the U.S. is allowed to subtract the emissions
absorbed by vegetation from its emission reduction targets, the U.S.
target would change from a 7 percent decrease in emissions, to a 5
percent increase during the 2008-2012 commitment period. In other words,
according to CAN, America could meet its Protocol mandate and not reduce
its energy consumption at all,
just by letting the trees and vegetation do its job.
No, no, this will never do. America must be forced to reduce its
“luxury consumption.” In Buenos Aires last November, just days after
hurricane Mitch, a delegate had the audacity to tell the entire
conference that America’s “luxury emissions” were responsible for the
death and devastation in Central America.
CAN believes that America’s vegetation is a part of the “global
commons,” and its capacity to absorb carbon dioxide should be “shared”
with the world. While measuring, monitoring, and potentially regulating
changes in carbon absorption capacity (read: land use), CAN, and the
group of nations that share their view, say that the U.S. definition of
forests “must be avoided at
To give the global warming police an iron-clad grip on American land
use, CAN — and the nations for which it speaks — are insisting on
direct linkage to the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Convention
on Desertification, and “other relevant U.N. Conventions covering the
environment, development, human rights, and International Labor
CAN says that implementation of the Kyoto Protocol should address
“concerns beyond climate change. …” In order for technology transfers
to qualify for emissions reduction credit under the Protocol, CAN wants
“fossil fuels of all types (including clean coal), nuclear, and large
hydro” to be “categorically excluded” from consideration. (They also
want all supersonic air travel banned).
Because Africa’s emissions are so low, compared to other developing
nations such as China, NGOs there are afraid there is little incentive
for industry to invest in Africa in pursuit of emissions reduction
credits. Consequently, the African branch of CAN is proposing that
implementation be designed to “promote socio-economic development” in
order to provide infrastructure, transport, agriculture, water
management, and sanitation. This scheme would
help Africa “meet its sustainable development needs.”
The treaty began 10 years ago with the objective to stabilize
greenhouse gases at a level that would “prevent dangerous anthropogenic
interference with the climate system.” No one has yet determined that
there is such a level, and certainly not what that level might be.
Nevertheless, the treaty, with its Kyoto Protocol, has become an
international grab bag from which NGOs and some nations hope to extract
America’s wealth, while forcing Americans to conform to the mandates
issued by the United Nations.