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The hottest topic at the global warming talks in Bonn, Germany, has
nothing to do with global warming; it has to do with the date of the
next meeting — and power politics. In the normal flow of things, the
next meeting, COP 6, is scheduled to convene in the Hague during the
last week of our presidential campaign in 2000. The U.S. delegation
requested that the meeting be rescheduled for sometime in 2001, after
the new president and Congress are in place. Most of the rest of the
world is offended that the U.S. would even think of delaying the
meeting.

Most of the time, the U.S. gets its way because the rest of the
nations realize that if the U.S. picks up its marbles and goes home, the
game is over. Period.

But not always. Last year in Rome, after pushing hard for the
creation of the International Criminal Court, the U.S. delegates tried
to block a provision that would allow the court to supersede national
sovereignty — and failed. The U.S. was one of only seven nations that
voted against the final document.

The battle taking shape now in Bonn has much of the same flavor.
Rarely do the rest of the nations get a chance to snub their noses at
American wishes; this is one of them. Many nations genuinely feel that
national elections are nothing more than a local amusement, and have
virtually no relevance to the important work of the U.N. A spokesman
for the World Wildlife Fund said rather sarcastically, “It’s
unprecedented for the U.N. to alter its schedule to accommodate a single
nation.”

We don’t know yet what the outcome will be, but there are a couple of
interesting scenarios. It is entirely possible that the U.S. does not
really want the meeting dates changed, but made the request for the
public relations value at home. The request does appear to respect the
possibility that a new philosophy may capture Washington after the next
election.

The notion that such a thought by this administration might be
genuine, is hard to swallow. Much more likely is that the request was
made with a wink, and the meeting will go on as scheduled.

COP 6 is the meeting where final agreement is to be reached on the
rules for implementing the Kyoto Protocol. It is hard to imagine that
this administration would be willing to risk letting others make the
final decisions, after working so hard to get this treaty implemented.
Therefore, if the meeting is held on schedule, this administration could
insure that agreements are reached. On the other hand, should anyone
but Al Gore occupy the White House next year, all the work on the treaty
since 1995 could be in jeopardy. By publicly requesting that the
meeting be postponed, this administration can avoid the appearance of
preempting a new president’s policies, while doing just that.

Such twisted political maneuvering should be unthinkable about any
U.S. administration. But in 1995, this administration quietly agreed to
the Berlin Mandate which committed the United States to accept the
results of the Kyoto Protocol before it was known what the Protocol
would require. The agreement also exempted all but 34 developed nations
from the Protocol. Then in 1997, this administration publicly announced
that it would not accept a Protocol that excluded the developing
nations, but privately accepted the Protocol with the developing nations
excluded.

There are good reasons to expect shenanigans from this
administration. Al Gore announced as early as 1992, that he wanted a
globally coordinated plan to eliminate the internal combustion engine by
2017. The Kyoto Protocol is a globally coordinated plan that gives the
U.N. the power to regulate, if not eliminate, the fuels which power
internal combustion engines — only in developed countries. Gore also
expected a seamless transition between Clinton’s administration and
his. He even ensured that the Protocol could not be enforced in the
United States until at least 2008, after he is safely out of office.

The hot topic in Bonn this week is mostly rhetoric. It provides the
delegates an opportunity to beat up on the United States, which is
always a feel-good exercise at U.N. meetings, and it provides cover for
the administration. The real meat in this meeting is being chewed
behind closed doors. As usual, any benefits that may come from this
diplomatic feast, will accrue to the United Nations, not to American
taxpayers.

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