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