Opinion

Kyoto II is dead. Long live Kyoto II.

Christopher Horner Senior Fellow, Competitive Enterprise Institute

Although this week’s “ministerial” meetings have yet to play out at the Cancun talks seeking a possible successor to the Kyoto Protocol expiring at the end of 2012, several things are already clear. The most important are these:

Kyoto II is dead. George W. Bush is vindicated. America won. The greens and Euro-statists lost.

There. I said it. But by Saturday you will be hard-pressed to recall this, reading the (by now ritual) huzzahs ringing from the Moon Palace Hotel, early in the morning the day after the confab was scheduled to wrap up, with tearful European negotiators waving a paper declaring green peace in our time. And, of course, historic agreement, which, upon scrutiny, will be little more than an historic agreement to meet again next year.

Happens every. Single. Year. The spectacle was already tiresome by the time I pointed it out in 2001.

There are only two real issues on the table in Cancun. The first is finding a way to achieve some temporary extension of Kyoto to ensure perpetuation of the enterprise past 2012, because any “coverage gap” would ensure its death. Second is the $100 billion “climate fund” the Obama administration (politically, not legally) committed the U.S. taxpayer to last year.

This demands heavy rhetorical gauze to downplay the cost while overplaying the promise of a supposed breakthrough between China and the U.S., falsely hailing business as usual as “leveling the playing field” such that we can safely negotiate entry into Kyoto’s selective energy-rationing scheme. This is likely to be of limited persuasiveness at home.

Oddly, whatever sorts of diplo-speak emerge will be acclaimed, even though the international community’s failure to agree upon an actual replacement pact at last year’s “last chance” was despaired as “a disaster” at the highest levels of EU politicos (if, yes, desperately spun in public nonetheless as “meaningful”).

Yet, while this silly theater plays out publicly, do not lose sight of what is being done behind the scenes. It is hinted at by that effort to temporarily extend Kyoto’s terms. To which Japan, incidentally and of all nations, says no, demanding instead a new deal.

A new, non-Kyoto treaty is indeed being negotiated. Elsewhere. Its terms are to be rolled out three weeks before a “World Environment Summit” in the spring of 2012 called “Rio Plus 20.” This new treaty will, as President Obama has already described things, skin the global warming cat a different way.

There, with heads of state attending, the world watching and — some misguided souls expect — extremely gullible or Depression-era desperate American voters gauging their prospects for economic rescue, economic salvation will be offered.

I learned of this over the summer when meeting with a European negotiator. He passed along to me his experience with (and an internal memo about) the looming “sustainability,” or — wait for it — “green jobs,” treaty that Team Kyoto plans to swap out for the original boondoggle. Some members in good standing with the global warming lobby have recently stepped up the public advocacy on this front.

When describing government programs, “green jobs” and “sustainability” are code for central planning. Coincidentally, the Kyoto plan was also about “re-engineering the global economy to a low-carbon model [with] the flow of billions of dollars redirected,” in the recent words of The Guardian no less.

That is to say, the UN set actually believes that they can revisit their high-water mark, riding (and influencing) U.S. presidential politics to multi-lateralist glory. This plan derives from experience. In 1992, with U.S. politics heating up for the first time since the world began enjoying its peace dividend — even if the greens were also moping over the reds’ loss — a young senator from Tennessee who had just written a best-selling book combining Baby Boomer narcissism with New Age mysticism and moonbattery flew down to the Rio Earth Summit to give political journalists around the world some red meat.

“Where’s George?!” the cries rang out. The stagecraft ultimately resulted in our 41st president buckling, flying to Rio to agree to a treaty he had until then disavowed. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was a “voluntary” promise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the end of the decade (the word “voluntary” appeared nowhere in its terms, though “shall” did 118 times. For an entertaining treatment of the original Rio confab, read P.J. O’Rourke’s “All the Trouble in the World,” or my own take).

With that act, as they say at the UN, voila, the U.S. government dignified the issue, the “must act!” mantra, and the model of “developed” countries transferring wealth to the exempt developing countries. Many of which actually did finally start developing soon thereafter, which was almost entirely unforeseen. That is where carbon dioxide emissions are increasing, incidentally. Not here. But, this wasn’t and isn’t actually about CO2 emissions.

The U.S. rushed to ratify the UNFCCC in an embarrassing 100 or so days, faster than all but two other nations on Earth (mighty Seychelles and Mauritius). This was almost immediately parlayed into calls for a “binding” pact, and Kyoto was soon struck, amending UNFCCC. The U.S. signed it. Yes, the wheels ultimately fell off. But here they are to try, try again.

Kyotophiles and global governance gadflies seek a replay of Rio 1992 in 2012, citing the economy as their rationale this time. We are regularly reminded of the green campaign’s by-whatever-means-necessary approach, even employing environmentalism as the excuse toward any desired end. We see the Maldives and others debasing themselves for billions in new “climate aid” premised on rapidly rising sea levels, with hysterical stunts, while simultaneously lobbying for development aid to build ocean-front resorts and even a new airport at water’s edge to handle the tourist traffic.

Cynicism, thy name is the global warming enterprise. This lucrative industry will not die easily.

The imminent Cancun “breakthrough” with China will be farce, if outrageous frivolity with taxpayer dollars. It will be no more than political cover to ease a transition to the new wealth-transfer and energy-rationing scheme, different from the old, failed Kyoto scheme only in name.

Christopher C. Horner is a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.