THE HAGUE — Just before dawn Saturday morning, John Prescott stormed
out of the climate change negotiations at The Hague, signaling dismal
failure for the two-week negotiating session, which puts the future of
the entire Kyoto Protocol in great jeopardy.
Prescott, Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister, and Frank Loy, U.S. chief
negotiator, reached agreement on the major outstanding issues sometime
after 3 a.m. “We physically shook hands,” Loy said. “Are we in now in
full agreement, is this a deal?” Loy said that Prescott, and
representatives from two other European countries in the room said
The deal fell apart when Prescott could not sell it to the rest of
the European Union.
Jurgen Trittin, Germany’s environmental minister led the resistance
to Prescott’s deal, and, in the end, it was rejected, causing a collapse
in the negotiations that stunned veteran observers.
Jan Pronk, president of the conference, had issued his own set of
proposed agreements on Friday, in an effort to avoid a negotiating
stalemate. By late afternoon on Friday, Pronk said in a public
statement that agreement on the details may not be possible, and the
effort shifted to the development of a “broad statement of principles”
on which the delegates could agree.
This maneuver is called “saving face.” It frequently occurs to avoid
the appearance of failure while setting the stage for further
negotiations at a later date.
The undecided U.S. presidential race, and the possibility of a new
slate of U.S. negotiators, undoubtedly provided motivation for the U.S.
negotiators to surrender even more ground to the European Union in an
effort to achieve agreement before The Hague conference ended. Thus,
the near-dawn session between the U.S. and the U.K.
When the deal was rejected by the European Union, it revealed a
breach that has heretofore hovered just beneath the surface, and threw
the entire Kyoto process into an unprecedented diplomatic typhoon.
Until now, the friction within the European Union has not erupted in
the climate change talks. The German environmental minister represents
the Green Party, a near-militant extremist group. With support from
Dominique Voynet, France’s environmental minister, who is also a Green
Party member, and four Nordic countries, the environmental purists
flexed their muscles and derailed five years of tough, expensive
“We came so close,” Prescott said.
A spokesman for the U.S.’ National Environmental Trust, said this
was the European Union’s’ “best opportunity to achieve a strong climate
treaty, and they decided to pass it up.”
In an effort to make the failure appear to be something other than
the disaster it is, the U.N. spin doctors decided not to “adjourn” the
conference, but to “suspend” the negotiations, until COP 6 Part II, to
be convened in May or June, 2001. This unprecedented invention throws
the negotiating schedule into a cocked hat. COP 7 is already scheduled
for Morocco in the fall of 2001, with several intersessional meetings
required before then.
In practical terms, the failure in The Hague has left the Kyoto
Protocol in diplomatic limbo. Add the growing likelihood that a new
slate of negotiators will bring a Bush philosophy to the table, the
emergence of Green Party Power in the European Union and the startling
declaration of the French president that the Kyoto Protocol is the first
“component of an authentic global governance,” then all the ingredients
are present for a big bang that may well disintegrate the entire global
warming industry, and possibly thwart the U.N.’s global governance
The heart of the matter is the U.N.’s effort to reconcile an
immovable object with an irresistible force. On the one hand, the
United States negotiators are limited by the reality of Senate
ratification, based on the principle that government is empowered by the
consent of the governed. On the other hand, the Green Party extremists
have no such concept, nor patience with a government that cannot simply
impose its will upon the people.
“It’s extremely difficult to negotiate between groups where political
cultures are so different,” laments Dominique Voynet. Jergen Trittin
says his people think the U.S. position is “ridiculous.”
This fundamental philosophical difference on the source of political
power is the baseline conflict that cannot be reconciled. It is the
same conflict that spawned two world wars. In recent times, this
conflict has been camouflaged by propaganda that promotes “global”
problems that can be met only by “global” action, directed by a central
body of power wielders. Much progress has been made by the proponents
of centralized government power. The Millennium Declaration, adopted by
most of the world’s heads of state, and the U.N. General Assembly,
attest to that progress.
The failure of the climate change talks lays bare this fundamental
conflict. It is an unexpected development that gives American citizens
an opportunity to reexamine the role the United States is playing in the
world, and the role it should play. Were it not for the necessity of
Senate ratification, the current U.S. negotiators would have given away
the store. Frank Loy repeatedly told his European colleagues that he
had to negotiate abroad what was possible at home.
A new slate of delegates may insist that global agreements be based
on the American principle that requires the consent of the governed
before empowerment. Were this principle to replace the Green Party
mentality that “government knows best,” we could see a whole new era of
international negotiations. We could see a whole new era of national
development, based on voluntary agreements among nations, without the
approval and enforcement of a “Big Brother” United Nations machine.
The failure of the climate change talks may be the collapse of the
house of cards built with U.N. propaganda over the last two decades.
The United States now has the opportunity to exert its influence, rather
than acquiesce to the influence of the Green Party extremists that drive
the U.N. global governance agenda. The collapse of the climate change
negotiations may be the best possible outcome of the Kyoto experience.