CLIMATE CHANGE NEGOTIATIONS AS SEEN THROUGH
TO MAD COW DISEASE IN THE U.S.A., by Pincas Jawetz (Two
articles, the earlier of which on this website is linked to by the United
Nations climate group.)
GROWTH REMAINS THE STRATEGY
What is in store for the world's climate based on the latest negotiations and schemings at top levels among nations and corporations? From the horse's mouth, here is a glimpse from the United Nation's press release dated Dec. 12 on the occasion of wrapping up the Milan Climate Change Conference. Following that are our on-the-scene reports from Culture Change's international editor, Pincas Jawetz, who exposes the insidious U.S. presence at the meeting.
There you have the first shoe dropping: adapt to climate change because the economic elite refuse to reduce emissions sufficiently. Now the second shoe from the same press release [emphasis added]:
The U.N. and most of the players in reducing greenhouse gas emissions offer the world a contradiction ó having one's cake and eating it too: continuing industrial production for the sake of profits while cutting back emissions(?). That game must be maintained, when a major goal is to remake the electric power infrastructure; this portends irresistible business for the lucky, far-seeing players cooperating with the U.N. on climate change.
Compromise is nothing new to the environmental non-governmental organizations at these meetings who are wise to the corrupting influence of powerful interests. But to wink and nod too much, while embracing the status quo as representatives of "green consuming," is a path to world ecological destruction where there can be nothing but an impoverished resource base for the inevitable local economics that must again sustain human activity.
We don't see much mention anymore of the undisputed finding by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that fossil-fuels use must be cut back 60-80 percent of what was spewing out in 1990 if climate stabilization is to be achieved. - Jan Lundberg, Sustainable Energy Institute
THREE EXCLUSIVE REPORTS FROM THE MILAN CLIMATE CHANGE MEETING
A series of Reports For Culture Change from Prof. Pincas Jawetz, Culture Change Correspondent at the United Nations and International Editor
FIRST REPORT FROM THE MILAN CLIMATE CHANGE
The Ninth Conference of the Parties that signed the UN convention on Climate Change brought close to 5,500 people to Milan from 180 nations. This figure includes 2,300 non-governmental organizations and 550 people from the media. The participants are from countries that did and did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol. In the latter category, the prominent countries are the US, Russia and Australia. All European Union member states and the candidate states of the EU, New Zealand, Canada, and Japan, have ratified.
According to the way the Kyoto Protocol (KP) was written, it will go into effect only if 55% of the signatories ratify. These include 55% of the CO2 emissions at the then specified date ó 1990. There is no problem with the first condition, as 121 countries have ratified the KP. But thanks to the position of the US (the country at the forefront of greenhouse gas emissions), there is not going to be the required minimum of 55% of emissions without a Russian ratification of the KP. The decision of Australia in this respect is irrelevant, and they can follow the US example if they choose to do so. Russia is a different matter. Basically, all eyes are directed to what Russia intends to do. The signals from Russia are varied and, to say the least, intended to stall. The problem is not the Russians but rather the European Union: its bureaucracy, the bureaucracy of the major environmental movements, and the bureaucracy of the Climate Change Convention staff.
It is quite clear that after six years of effort (Kyoto was in 1997 at the third meeting of the COP), the EU does not want to walk away from the KP to try something new. The other groups mentioned above just cannot get off on the high of treading water and going to meetings.
The Russian contingent here is very large and varied. There are delegates connected to businesses that stand to profit from foreign investments if Russia does ratify. Also, the large NGOs in the West have brought over Russians to vouch that President Putin will ratify someday. First he had to wait for the elections to the Duma, then for his own re-election to the Presidency, then for the US elections in 2004 ó so nothing will happen before November 2004. The facts are rather different: Seemingly, Mr. Putin is putting international politics ahead of anything else, and the situation in Chechnya may be the major factor.
Also, the fact that in Kyoto, Russia was able to get a good income from selling the famous "hot air" ó that was the reduction of emissions when they closed the inefficient industries from Soviet times ó but without the US as buyers, there is no market for this "hot air" or make-believe reductions in emissions. Without this incentive, why should they actually ratify? True, there are businesses in Russia that stand to benefit from the other mechanisms that were established in Kyoto, but Mr. Putin may have other political aims, as shown in his latest dealings with some of the oligarchs.
Mr. Illiaronow, a very close assistant to Mr. Putin from days prior to the Presidency, stated that Russia will not ratify. There is no reason to doubt him except for the lack of will to listen to him on the part of some people gathered here. Without the Russian ratification, one can safely say that Kyoto is DEAD. On the other hand, it does not make much sense in to be so trite. It would make much more sense simply to say: "Look, with or without Kyoto, Europe and its coalition of the willing will proceed to implement some of the mechanisms established in the Kyoto Protocol pending a new regime that will be established eventually."
The best part of the events that occurred here in Milan was a feeling that this alternative is looked at seriously now, after a sense of weakening infatuation with the Russian presenters here. The side events of their appearing full packed last week are quite empty this week; they simply do not seem to have the truth at their fingertips. In a press conference with the German Green Minister of the Environment on December 10th, it became clear that he is calling for action now, even though he recognizes that this means acting without the KP in place. He said that the Russians will eventually come along some day, but says we can't wait for them. In the meantime, he says, we must act and such actions are already in process.
At the first
round-table of the ministerial level of the meeting, it became obvious that
many participants in the discussion were dealing with such actions without
spending time talking of the Kyoto Protocol.
SECOND REPORT FROM THE
MILAN CLIMATE CHANGE MEETING
This report deals with the US participation at the Ninth Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The official US delegation contains 95 names ó by far the largest contingent here, and I was told it was also the largest US contingent ever, at a COP of the UNFCCC. It includes four US Senators, five members of the House of Representatives, 25 Senate staff and 9 staff members of the House of Representatives.
The delegation to this meeting that deals with global warming further includes two staff members of the Executive Office of the President, 22 members of the State Department, 9 members of the Department of Energy, 7 members of the Department of Commerce, 2 members of the Department of Agriculture, one member of the Department of Transportation, three members of the Agency for International Development, 6 members of the US Environmental Protection Agency, and one person identified as Director, Office of Communication for Mining Week understood to be an industry lobbyist listed as part of the US delegation.
It was indeed a formidable representation from a country that basically professes that the Kyoto Protocol of the UNFCCC is dead. Was this delegation, according to its composition, intended to convince the rest of the world of US worries about the environment and that it has better ideas of how to go about ecological policy?
citizens came here as part of delegations not on the
government list ó
such as state governments, municipal authorities, business representatives
and many non-governmental organizations with various interests. Also a
few US journalists ó
just a few ó
mainly from business newsletters.
Senator Jim Inhofe, a veteran of such
delegations and chair of the group that
ó if I am not mistaken he was in
unfolded the famous chart showing that there was a small ice age in the
Middle Ages and restated that some scientists were found to question that
we have a global warming effect resulting from burning coal and oil.
When faced with the possibility that it is in the nature of science to
express an uncertainty, the reaction was that we heard this
before. When faced with a question that even if the jury were still
out on the science of global warming, the fact remains that it is funds transferred
to the oil producers that eventually gave us the September 11, 2001 event.
Moreover, the figures they quoted for expenditures on research on potential
decreased use of fossil fuels by the US Administration are
"peanuts" when compared with the costs of funding terrorism;
Senator Inhofe volunteered that 9/11 had nothing to do with oil but with
I overheard an Italian saying that the US Delegation was getting the "Bilateral Rwanda tour." It seemed like this, when I witnessed Ms. Dobriansky being told that the liquid hydrogen fuel is "very cold." (Please allow me to excuse myself to the Nation of Rwanda; I guess that statement was also a play of words with the Italian word for "rounds.")
Now what is actually the US position? It is that the US is worried
about global warming and suggests spending money for developing high
technologies to be available in 20-50 years, thus justifying doing nothing in the present time. Such technologies
include coal- fueled electricity that does not emit CO2, hydrogen fuels
from renewable energy, and a new generation of nuclear technology. To
these concepts, the German Minister of Environment, Nature Conservation
and Nuclear Safety, Mr. Juergen Tritin, answered that there is not going
to be renewable energy sources for the production of hydrogen, unless we
implementing renewable energy programs with today's technologies, that may
then eventually be improved by private enterprise, and there will be
economic ways of
producing hydrogen from renewable sources at the appropriate time ó
otherwise we are dealing with "pipe dreams."
And how was US participation at the Milan meeting viewed? This can be answered by looking at the "Fossil of the Day" awards from environmental NGOs. USA was the champion garnering 19 points. On December 11, the US got first place with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Oman "for trying to divert attention from urgently needed emission cuts now, by focusing squarely on future technology of capturing and storing CO2 from fossil fuels." The Saudis, supported by Oman and Kuwait, asserted that CO2 capture would make fossil fuels "climate friendly;" the US joined that position.
On December 10, when asked by a reporter during a press conference whether or not she personally believed that climate change was happening, Ms. Dobriansky responded that the US was concerned about climate change and that's why they, the US, were "active Participants" here in Milan. The reporter pointed out that she did not answer his question. Cornered, she answered that President Bush had personally noted in public that warming and increased temperatures had been observed and that we had seen "cyclical changes" ó thus making it clear that she believes that the Administration believes that there is no human-induced climate change.
This stands makes it clear that the US Administration doesn't intend to participate in a problem-solving mode. Nevertheless, its large presence here ó mainly with folks not related to the actual problem ó shows that it is (like the Russians, according to the first report of this series) worried about business implications of being left on the outside. This at a time when Europe and even many developing countries are devising ways of cooperation to reduce greenhouse gases. The presence in Milan of US groups ó such as state government and local authorities ó shows that the Administration's approach does not cover the whole spectrum of US interests. Eventually, it will be business groups which are left outside the initiatives being created through the mechanisms that were put in place in Kyoto. The world will start hammering at the Administration's doors with a call for change. Mexico and Canada ( US's NAFTA partners) are more comfortable now with the EU's stand on fighting global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
MOSES, MILAN, AND THE
CLIMATE CHANGE LEADERSHIP
This year the dates were December 1-12, 2003, which included the weekend Saturday December 7 and Sunday December 8. As the meetings were held in Milan, by coincidence, this was a very special weekend. Milan celebrates its patron saint, December 5-8, with a street fair surrounding Piazza Saint'Ambrogio. The fair is called Oh Bej! Oh Bej! and is said to have come from the delighted squeals of children who, upon beholding such a marvelous fair, once cried in Milanese dialect "Oh, how pretty! Oh, how pretty!".
During the 3rd century A.D., Milan was the second largest city of the Western Empire, after Rome. In 313 the Emperors Constantine and Licinius issued the Edict of Milan which formally gave freedom of worship to Christianity. In 374, an Imperial official, Ambrose, was elected Bishop of Milan - he left such a mark on the Church of Milan that it was called the Ambrosian Church. The Basilica of Saint'Ambroglio was begun in 379, consecrated in 387, and St. Ambrose was buried there in 397. It is viewed as the centerpiece of Christianity history in Milan, thus for years synonymous with Milan history. It is also therefore no wonder that the opera season at the La Scala Opera House - the cultural centerpiece of Milan, would start on December 7, the high point of the Saint'Ambroglio celebration. The 2003-2004 season started on Saturday December 7 with "Moise et Pharaon, ou le passage de la Mer Rouge", the French opera by the Italian Gioachino Rossini based on "Mose in Egitto" written for Naples in 1818. This is the musical and visual presentation of Moses leading his people out of Egypt. This was the environment into which happened COP 9 and my own imagination was pulling at me with the question ó who will be the Moses that will release humanity from the enslavement in Egypt, or the oil industry, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq ó use your own imagination, please.
The official meetings are halted for the weekend. Only working groups still toil all day on Saturday and even the night, but Sunday the building is closed and people rest or become tourists. Traditionally, the host country organizes also field trips. The historic La Scala building is closed for renovations for two years, will reopen on December 7, 2004. In the mean-time performances are held in a new specially built theatre, the Archimboldi in the vicinity of the new university. The performances were Sunday the 7th, opening of the season, Wednesday the 10th, and Saturday the 13th. It was impossible to get any tickets for the first two performances of the four and a half hour long virtuoso opera, but I was lucky to get a ticket for the Saturday, which turned out ideal also for my digesting and understanding of the needs for leadership on the issue of Climate Change.
The Sunday of December 7th saw me on a field trip of the Joint Research Center (JRC) Kyoto Experiment of the European Commission Directorate-General to the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve "Parco Ticino" near Zerbolo, in the Province of Pavia in Tuscany. The station is billed as a Kyoto Observatory in the sense it measures CO2 emissions from forests ó be those natural forests or plantations. The place is in the vicinity of the only leftover natural forest in that part of Italy, and it was declared a UNESCO nature reserve. Also in the area one finds fast-growing-rotation poplar plantations. Most Italian furniture wood used to come from here, now it is pulp material and construction material. It is important to see if regenerating natural forest can be proven superior to the plantations when it comes to capturing CO2. The collection of such data,for Europe is done at this Observatory. We saw the equipment, listened to the scientists' data, and got away with lots of questions about the potential of sequestering CO2 via wood plantations. Seemingly the long process of restoring the natural forest gives much better long term results.
When I got back to town, I spent a few hours at the Saint'Ambroglio fair and contemplated the idea of a Moses leading us away from the commercial interests.
December 10th and 11th were the so-called three High Level Round-Table Discussions, and it is fair to assume that the six co-chairs were considered as the central figures at the meeting.
Round-Table 0ne: On Climate Change, adaptation, mitigation and sustainable development, co-chaired by Ms. Yuriko Koike from Japan and the Minister from the Marshall Islands representing the Small Islands Independent Developing States (the SIDS). This panel had a lot to discuss on mitigation that is needed now in order to avoid drastic adaptation in the future. This means the need to start using less energy in the developed world ó NOW ó in order to allow orderly increased use of energy in the developing world. In this shuffle, the concept of Sustainable Development is all but forgotten in favor of old style squandering development still favored by the south.
Round-Table two: On Technology and Transfer of Technology co-chaired by US head of delegation, Ms. Paula Dobriansky and Mr Muhammed Valli Moosa, Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, South Africa and former Chair of last year's Johannesburg Summit. At this panel, the US stressed the importance of technology, South Africa stressed the existing technologies to be implemented by the private sector and Ireland (next office holder of the European Presidency) stressed renewables. Saudi Arabia seemed to reject the whole process by saying that the UNFCCC's aim is not to reduce oil dependency.
Round-Table three: On Assessment of Progress made, co-chaired by the Minister from Mexico speaking for the south and Mr. Juergen Tritin from Germany. At this panel, the European Commission said that the issues require political will and that emissions can be reduced at low cost using existing technologies. Turkey and Yemen announced their accession to UNFCCC with Yemen also ratifying the Kyoto Protocol (KP). The Netherlands declared that they will proceed without Kyoto as if the Kyoto Protocol was actually in place and working.
Friday, December 12, was the last day and working groups continued to press for results to the last moment. The end results are actually better than expected considering that there were no realistic prospects that Russia will ratify the KP. Among the agreed-upon documents there is now in place an agreement on Aforestation and Reforestation Modalities, important for Clean Development Mechanism projects (CDM) that are the mechanism that the Europeans and some further countries, including even States within the USA, will be using under direct arrangements, even without Kyoto. The Europeans will have their full legislation in place to do so starting 2005. The only blemish in the agreed upon text is that it allows for GMOs or genetically modified plants. Minister Tritin, in a press conference pointed out at this and said they had to accept this in order to make it possible to proceed with the CDM. He hopes that this will change eventually because of opposition to specific credit buying.
Further agreements were on National Communications from parties included in Annex I (the developed countries), but no agreement was reached on the non-Annex I countries or the developing countries. These nations are afraid that obligatory reporting will lead to their having to take upon themselves responsibilities that they were allowed to escape in the Kyoto Protocol. This is clearly untenable and not even all members of the G77&China group believe that this situation can continue.
On the Question of Creating the Special Climate Change Fund and the Least Developed Countries Fund, a last minute agreement was reached for a $410 million annual assistance to Developing countries to adapt to the impact of global warming, ranging from floods to draughts and storms.
Also, it was agreed that COP 10 of the UNFCCC will be held November 29 - December 7, 2004 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Now back to Moses. He is needed more then ever to the Climate Change Convention folks. Moses, in our context, had his people worship the King of the Universe, the provider of the ageless ecology, and not some self-interest or regional ruler. For the sake of the environment, and life on earth, the unforgiving king is the king of the universe. The regional king is some special interest, destructive and untrue. Now who will be the Moses that takes us out of Saudi Arabia ? It will not be President Bush. Could it be Ms. Yuriko Koike from Japan because of the Japan interest in Kyoto? Perhaps it could rather be Mr. Juergen Tritin, the Green Minister from Germany. He was active in Milan and despite his refusal to disavow expressed hope for waiting for Putin, he actually said that he is ready to proceed without Kyoto as if Kyoto were in place already. Perhaps, when considering the reality, he would be ready to see that despite the tremendous investment in time and effort in the Kyoto process, actually Kyoto was never needed.
The Global Commons is outside any National sovereignty. The Global Commons, among its four components, includes the atmosphere and the oceans. What is needed is an Administration of the Global Commons that has the power to sell pollution permits and apply penalties for illegal pollution, pollution including also the Green-House Gasses emissions. This proposed Administration could then reinvest the funds thus created in the developing countries and achieve all what was envisioned in Kyoto without being tied into this 55% constraint that we took upon ourselves in Kyoto. Details of this Global Commons approach can be found in the web-site of the Centre for UN Reform Education at www.unreformcenter.org under "A Promptbook on Sustainable Development for the World Summit in Johannesburg, August 2002". The important context in this approach is the fact that pollution migrates and the air and water pollution originating in the territory under National sovereignty migrates to the Global Commons and is thus under the jurisdiction of the Administrator. The concept is not strange to the UN as it has already dealt with nodules of minerals and migratory fish found in oceans outside national waters. In those cases bodies were established for rule making. Having ruled in those cases, the world body can see how to deal also on issues of climate change.
Would Moses throw his stick at this issue? In the opera I saw, the text was complicated, many side issues, but Moses had no Stick ó he used the power of persuasion instead. He was sure to say and do the right thing.
We thank Pincas Jawetz for the hard work and
devotion to the cause of minimizing fossil-fuels dependence. Perhaps he
is the Moses for climate protection that he ponders.
Organic agriculture's answer to climate
Had the United States signed
the Kyoto Protocol, it could have met all of its greenhouse gas reduction
commitments simply by shifting to organic agriculture.
- Read UN press
release and recent UN climate
Back to Home Page