America caves to climate-change agenda in Warsaw

Larry Hart Senior Fellow, American Conservative Union Foundation
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It will be hard for those who have endured the relentless domestic agenda of the Obama Administration to imagine a place where they are the moderates.  Nevertheless, that is the case at the annual meetings of the Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP for short.  The 19th such conference was held this November for two weeks in Warsaw, Poland.

The result was another cave-in by the “moderate” U.S. delegation to China and Marxist states such as Bolivia and Cuba, that each year demand more and more money from the U.S., Europe, and Japan. The money is to pay for their past sins of greenhouse gas emissions that they claim have warmed the planet and brought on sea level rise and devastating storms such as the recent super-typhoon in the Philippines. Another term would be reparations.

Attending as an official NGO observer, I came away with a much better understanding of the political dynamics of U.N. meetings and how the U.S. puts itself in a position to be rolled by the rest of the world.   For one thing, much like Congress, countries have formed into groups representing factions.  The largest calls itself “the G-77and China” representing the so-called “developing world.”  They have set themselves against the U.S. and Europe.

There are two main areas of contention at each conference. The first is “commitments,” that is, what commitments countries are willing to make to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.  In practical terms this means commitments from the U.S., Europe, and Japan.  The second, and by far the biggest issue, is money. Money from the “wealthy” countries to the “poorer” countries to “mitigate” the effects of the “sacrifices” they will have to make to reduce fossil fuel use, etc.

Ironies abounded at this particular conference. Host country Poland is one of the few that does not always go along with the program as it relies on coal for much of its energy needs. In fact, they sacked their Environment Minister in the middle of the conference for not doing enough with Poland’s shale gas reserves. Then there is Australia, the former poster child for the global warming movement. As a result of recent elections reinstating the conservatives, they announced no high level ministers would be coming because they were “too busy repealing their carbon tax.” Then there is Japan, birthplace of the Kyoto Protocol. Having shut down 150 nuclear plants after the Fukushima disaster caused by the Tsunami, Japan announced they could not adhere to the Protocol and could only promise a three percent increase in their emissions, rather than a reduction.

Although Copenhagen did not produce a new agreement, to save face the U.S. and others committed to a “World Climate Fund” that would ultimately consist of $100 billion per year in contributions from the “wealthy.” Having started this in the midst of a worldwide recession followed by the Euro crisis, it hasn’t received much in the way of cash. This, however, is not enough. The call in Warsaw was for a new fund, the loss and damage fund which would compensate countries for future natural disasters, such as storms and floods.

Here’s where it gets interesting. The U.S. took two strong positions in Warsaw. One was that China, now the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, can no longer pretend to be a poor, struggling developing country. (After all, they do hold $1.2 trillion in U.S. debt). This fell on deaf ears. The second almost caused the conference to collapse: The U.S. did not oppose a new loss and damage fund but strongly opposed setting up a new U.N. bureaucracy to administer it. After going well over 24 hours past the scheduled adjournment time without the “consensus” needed to agree, the U.S. caved and agreed to the new organization.

To start ratcheting up the pressure, there will be two meetings before next year’s COP in Lima, Peru. One will be a “climate summit” hosted by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon when the General Assembly meets in New York in September, 2014. Will the U.S. start forking over the billions demanded by the “developing” world? Will China ever make the binding commitments expected of the world’s leading emitter of greenhouse gases? Will the 2015 Paris conference be the one where Obama can make up for Copenhagen? Stay tuned.

Larry Hart is the Director of Government Relations for the American Conservative Union and brings 13 years of experience in the legislative and executive branches of government to ACU. In 1999, Hart left government service to form Hartco Strategies, a media relations and political consulting firm whose clients ranged from members of Congress and non-profits to political action committees. Larry attended the Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change with the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s delegation.