THE HAGUE — Jacques Chirac, president of France, told the delegates
negotiating the Kyoto Protocol in The Hague, that the Protocol is an
important step toward
global governance. Most of the 8,000 delegates and observers enthusiastically embrace the idea of a United Nations agency mandating energy policy for 38 developed nations. There are a few notable exceptions.
The U.S. congressional delegation was on hand to hear the French president link the Protocol to the U.N.’s global governance agenda. In private conversations after the day’s business was concluded,
Hagel had sharp words of disapproval of attempts to transform the U.N. into a world government.
The Protocol, as conceived, though not yet fully negotiated, would give the U.N. body a double-whammy club to beat up on 38 developed nations. First, by setting emissions targets, the U.N. body would be able to effectively dictate the fossil fuel energy that a developed nation might use. Second, the U.N. would have the authority to “enforce” compliance, using procedures, sanctions and penalties that have not yet been defined.
Americans would not likely stand for an international law that openly gives the U.N. the power to set energy-use limits. So instead of attacking the input end of the energy pipe, the politically astute U.N. machinery is attacking the output end of the energy pipe. “Controlling emissions” is said to be the goal, and is presented as necessary to save the planet. Controlling energy use is the actual goal, and is necessary for the redistribution of wealth, with little or no impact on the planet.
The penalty for non-compliance has presented a particularly thorny problem, because most of the 38 developed nations will be unable to meet their agreed targets. This means that most of the affected nations will have to pay the costs — whatever they are — once the decision is taken. Consequently, compliance negotiations go on behind closed doors, with periodic reports that “some progress has been made.” These negotiations have been ongoing for three years — since the Kyoto Protocol was adopted in 1997.
Chirac’s global governance announcement could be the straw that breaks the back of the entire Protocol. After eight days of intense negotiations, there has been little movement on three major issues that must be resolved: emissions trading, carbon sinks and penalties for non-compliance. Add to these unresolved issues the implications of global governance, and the entire process could easily unravel.
Perhaps this would be the best possible outcome of COP 6 — admission by the delegates that the Protocol they pieced together in Kyoto is simply unworkable.
One of the many problems with this fatally flawed Protocol is that it attempts to do two things at once: 1) reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere and 2) empower the United Nations to enforce those reductions. Either of these two objectives is a formidable undertaking. As the delegates have struggled over the last six years, it has become increasingly apparent that empowering the U.N. has become more important than reducing emissions.
Having heard Jacques Chirac say, not once, but twice, during his presentation, that global governance is the larger objective, the congressional delegations will have a new dimension to report to their colleagues when they return to Washington.
Regardless of the decisions that are taken — or not taken — during this two-week session, the delegates will find some way to save face. One scenario being discussed in the halls is the “Kyoto scenario.” This is a situation — as occurred in Kyoto — in which no agreement was reached until the last day, several hours after the scheduled adjournment. Delegates could again go into closed session late in the week, and stay in session until the last minute, and then simply announce that agreement has been reached on some of the important issues.
Credence was attached to this scenario when rumors spread through the halls that the U.S. would cave-in on up to 60 percent of the outstanding questions about carbon sinks. The European Union and the U.S. have been at odds on this issue since Kyoto. Environmental extremists have been lobbying heavily for the delegates to reject the U.S. position.
Adding to the uncertainty here is the uncertainty in the U.S. Presidential race. Some speculation has emerged that should George Bush be declared the winner, the U.S. delegation might withdraw resistance to all outstanding issues in order to advance the Protocol as far as possible before a new slate of delegates is appointed by a new administration.
Publicly, the U.S. delegation says that the present administration will be in place until Jan. 20, and the elections struggle has no effect on their negotiating positions. Traditionally, the rumors in the halls tend to be very accurate.
By the end of the week, the delegates will prove or disprove the rumors, and some kind of face-saving document will be applauded as progress. It will not likely repeat Jacques Chirac’s reference to global governance. But like a stone once thrown, his words cannot be recalled, and his words will have an impact wherever they land. His words will land in the U.S. Congress, and they will land across America.
Those skeptics who have been unwilling to believe that the U.N. is, indeed, contriving a world government need only to listen to the president of France.