Another ‘historic’ climate breakthrough

As predicted, because it is by now absurdly ritual, early the day after the scheduled conclusion of this year’s talks to replace the expiring Kyoto Protocol, negotiators emerged hailing a breakthrough agreement on “global warming.” The Washington Post offers its take which, although it provides no word whether I won the CEI office pool on the number of European diplomats crying (the “over/under” was five), nonetheless opens risibly:

CANCUN, MEXICO – Delegates from 193 nations agreed Saturday on a new global framework to help developing countries curb their carbon output and cope with the effects of climate change, but they postponed the harder question of precisely how industrialized and major emerging economies will share the task of making deeper greenhouse-gas emission cuts in the coming decade.

Seventeen paragraphs later it was clear that this amusing effort to proclaim a pony under that pile — a “framework!” — really meant that the framework for a new agreement was reached, with details as to what constitutes that actual framework to be worked out later. It was an historic agreement to meet again next year. Again.

Do not be impatient with these people. What was actually agreed to in December 1997 in the far more detail-heavy Kyoto Protocol, and which we were to ratify as a binding treaty, actually was not determined until the December 2005 meeting in Montreal (my last physical foray into this annual idiocy). Which is why we shouldn’t commit to any future binding agreements: they’re blank checks. The U.S. is granted a vote equal to that of Burkina Faso, Cuba or any one of the ‘Stans. Committing ensures merely that we will be informed at the appropriate time, when it is decided by all of our friends in the UN community, what it was that we agreed to.

This announcement in an official press release was typical:

Ambassador Patricia Espinosa Cantellano emphasized that the time to reach a definitve [sic] agreement is about to run out, and then she received a standing ovation from the delegates.

You may also remember how it was only one year ago that we were told the world had mere days to save itself in Copenhagen, in the form of a new treaty to replace Kyoto when its clock runs out at the end of 2012. No such agreement was struck, so this year they decided to holster some of the hysteria and see if it helped. Not so much.

This year mimicked last year. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hailed whatever it is that was the Cancun Agreement as “meaningful progress.” Which, as good luck has it, is the same phrase the Obama administration used to describe Copenhagen, more candidly acknowledged by Euro-diplomats in private as a “disaster.”