Thursday, May 26, 2011

Hearing Signals Problems With Climate Politics & Negotiations

May 25: The House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chaired by Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), with Ranking Member Russ Carnahan (D-MO) held a hearing entitled, "UN Climate Talks and Power Politics: It's Not about the Temperature." The full committee is Chaired by Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-RI), with Ranking Member Howard Berman (D-CA) held a hearing Oversight and Investigations. Witnesses included: Todd Stern, U.S. Department of State, Special Envoy for Climate Change; and representatives from the: Pew Center on Global Climate Change; German Marshall Fund of the United States; and American Enterprise Institute. In an opening statement by Chairman Rohrabacher said:
"In December 2007, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change met in Bali, Indonesia. There, in one of the most opulent resort areas in the world, a playground for the rich, a plan was drawn up to impose a lower standard of living on the rest of us. The imperative was alleged to be "Man-made global warming" which poses a danger against which the whole world should unite. In the years since, the scientific assumptions of this supposed crisis have increasingly been challenged by prominent scientists throughout the world. Richard Lindzen of MIT, Patrick Michaels of the University of Virginia, Freeman Dyson at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, Frank Tipler, a Professor of both Mathematics and Physics at Tulane University, and Roy Spencer, a climatologist and a Principal Research Scientist for the University of Alabama in Huntsville are among the many eminent scientists whose work has contradicted the flawed UN orthodoxy of Man-made global warming. I have a list of 100 other prominent scientists who agree with the five I have just mentioned, which I will place in the record. . .
"Under the slogan 'common but differentiated responsibilities' a 'zero sum' world was created which pitted developed and developing countries against each other and within each block of nations. Behind the debate over the supposed science of climate change, nations have fought for trade advantages, the transfer of technology, the flow of capital, and political influence. Coalitions have formed that will affect the global balance of power far beyond the conference halls.
"The stakes are high; nothing less than how the future growth of the world economy will be divided up. Who will be allowed to prosper and who will be forced to slow down or even go into decline are issues on the table. The current talks aim at a 'binding agreement' to be signed in December at a conference in Durham, South Africa. It is meant to replace the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 which is to expire in 2012.
"The United States did not accept the Kyoto Protocol because it imposed restrictions only on the developed countries while leaving the developing countries free to follow whatever strategy for economic growth they desired. UN documents still call for the next agreement to follow this same pattern, protecting the "right" of some nations to rise while imposing a debt burden on the developed countries of North America, Europe and Japan as a penalty for modernizing first and being successful. . ."
    Chairman Rohrabacher concluded saying, "The purpose of this hearing is to examine the UN climate talks and the swirling maneuvers and power plays observed in the wake of these global gatherings. Are our national interests at stake? How can America protect its national interests against the demands of rivals? What coalitions confront us and how can we thwart moves hostile to our interests? Why do we not claim the same right to growth as other nation's claim, and act as they do to protect that right?"
    Stern testified that the first priority for the U.S. leading up to the COP 17 conference in Durban, South Africa, should be to "implement the key agreements reached in Cancun -- to draft guidelines establishing a transparency and accountability system; to design the  new Green Fund that was agreed to in principle; to set up a Climate Technology Center and Network; and to create a new Adaptation Committee. If we take these steps and start building the new institutions needed for a pragmatic international regime, COP 17 will be a solid success."
    Stern concluded after outlining many problems in the upcoming negotiations saying, "The question for the UN climate negotiations, at the end of the day, is what parties want. The UNFCCC has the potential to be a cooperative, mutually beneficial platform -- though not the sole platform -- for combating climate change. It also has the potential to be a platform focused mostly on rhetorical thrust and parry, with a thick overlay of accusation and blame. The one vision is useful. The other it not. We will continue working to support that first, cooperative vision, always bearing in mind that the central mission of our discussions must be to try to address the climate challenge, not to settle old scores. . . But much work remains."
    Steven Hayward, Ph.D., with the American Enterprise Institute testified, "I will begin with my contentious conclusion, which is that the international diplomacy of climate change is the most implausible and unpromising initiative since the disarmament
talks of the 1930s, and for many of the same reasons; that the Kyoto Protocol and its progeny are the climate diplomacy equivalent of the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928 that promised to end war (a treaty that is still on the books, by the way), and finally, that future historians are going to look back on this whole period as the climate policy equivalent of wage and price controls to fight inflation in the 1970s."
    Elliot Diringer with the Pew Center on Global Climate Change said, "The United States must remain fully engaged in the talks with the aim of strengthening multilateral support and transparency, thereby promoting action while laying the groundwork for a future binding agreement. A growing number of countries are pursuing policies that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Many see the challenge as an important opportunity as well. Some of our major trading partners are moving aggressively to grow their clean energy technology industries, which create domestic jobs and high-value exports. Without stronger policies creating similar incentives here, the United States risks falling further behind in the rapidly expanding clean energy market.
    "U.S. inaction on climate change exposes our nation to real and rising risks. The longer we delay action, the harder it will be to avert the worst consequences of warming, the higher the cost of coping with those that can not be avoided, and the further we fall behind in the clean energy race. Taking steps now to expand clean energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions is squarely in our strong national interest."
    Daniel Twining with the German Marshall Fund of the United States testified that, ". . .poor American diplomacy combined with the flaws of the United Nations-led climate-change negotiations have had the effect of isolating the United States from important friends and allies rather than enabling it to build like-minded coalitions on environmental issues of shared concern. A more effective approach would integrate U.S. interests in mitigating climate change with broader strategic concerns vis-à-vis both allies and rising powers. It would work to produce positive-sum outcomes to climate negotiations facilitated by joint development and deployment of key energy and environmental technologies, rather than succumbing to a zero-sum logic pitting the developed world against the developing world in global, U.N.-led multinational arenas.
"An instructive example of an unfortunate outcome for broader U.S. interests was the United Nations' Copenhagen climate conference of December 2009. American diplomacy and the flaws inherent in a multilateral conference with universal membership undermined Washington's ties with its European allies and with rising powers including China, Brazil, and India. . . the Copenhagen endgame produced a crisis in transatlantic relations. . . The 'developed versus developing world' quality of multilateral climate change negotiations with universal membership also compromises U.S. interests with a range of key emerging powers. . .
    Access the statements and testimony posted separately: Rep. Rohrbacher (click here); Stern (click here); Diringer (click here); Twining (click here); and Hayward (click here). [*Climate]

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