[Marxism] US fails in bid to kill off Kyoto process

Mike Friedman mikedf at mail.amnh.org
Mon Dec 20 06:05:24 MST 2004


US fails in bid to kill off Kyoto process

By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor

19 December 2004

Governments from around the world yesterday narrowly succeeded in keeping 
the international bid to combat catastrophic global warming alive, in the 
face of determined attempts by the re-elected Bush administration to kill 
it off.

Top negotiators described the effort - at a special UN conference in Buenos 
Aires - as like hanging on to a cliff face by their "fingernails", as the 
United States and oil-producing countries threw rock after rock to try to 
dislodge them.

More than 36 hours after the conference was supposed to have ended - 
following two all-night negotiating sessions, and while workmen were 
physically dismantling the facilities around them - delegates finally 
agreed on a series of compromises that avoided complete breakdown and kept 
some life in the negotiations.

The US said that "on balance" it was "very pleased with the outcome", but 
its obdurate obstruction of even anodyne proposals at the two-week 
conference bodes ill for the future of the talks, which are designed to 
hammer out the next tough steps to be taken after the Kyoto Protocol runs 
its course in 2012.

It will also sharply increase the pressure on Tony Blair, who has committed 
himself to making progress on combating global warming - and involving the 
US in the effort - one of the key priorities for his leadership of the G8 
group of the world's most powerful countries next year. Even before the 
cliff-hanger conference, Downing Street was increasingly at a loss about 
how it was going to fulfil the worldwide expectations raised by the Prime 
Minister in two high-profile speeches this year on what he describes as 
"long term, the single most important issue facing the global community".

The US performance in Buenos Aires appears to fly in the face of a 
commitment given by President Bush in 2001, when he announced that the US 
would withdraw from the protocol that it had previously played a key part 
in negotiating. In the face of international outrage, he said then that 
even though it was pulling out, the US would do nothing to obstruct other 
countries trying to reach agreement. By and large it has kept to this 
position since, at least in public, believing that the protocol was doomed 
without its participation.

But this autumn Washington was shocked and angered when Russia agreed to 
ratify the protocol - completing the number of countries needed, under its 
complex rules, to bring it into force. Environmentalists say that the 
re-elected Bush administration has decided to do everything it can to 
sabotage any further international measures, and is not concerned about the 
international condemnation it will incur in the process.

This transformed the Buenos Aires conference, which was expected to be a 
routine and relatively uncontroversial meeting, the last before 
negotiations on the follow-up to Kyoto begin in earnest next November. Its 
chairman, Raul Estrada-Oyuela, an Argentinian diplomat who played a central 
role in the negotiation of the protocol seven years ago, proposed an 
apparently inoffensive series of informal meetings over next year to 
prepare the ground for the talks.

But this was vigorously opposed by the US, which insisted there could only 
be one informal meeting, and that no ideas for the future could be 
discussed at it. The Americans also objected to mentions of the need to 
tackle global warming as opposed to adapting to it, and backed an 
extraordinary demand from Saudi Arabia that oil-producing states should 
receive billions of dollars in compensation from the rest of the world if 
they burned less oil.

Eventually a single meeting that could discuss the future was agreed for 
next May, and other uneasy compromises were reached, preventing total 
breakdown. "It is a finger-hold, like hanging on by your nails," says 
Michael Zammit Cutajar, a veteran climate negotiator for Malta who was for 
11 years executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

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