The Clinton-Gore administration’s failure to ram the Kyoto Protocol, an international global warming treaty that would restrict energy use in developed countries, down the throats of an unwilling populace, and the failure of major protests in Seattle to cripple the World Trade Organization with environmental and labor standards, has sent the eco-activists back to the drawing board. Their newest idea for grabbing political power, a Global Environmental Agency (GEA), is even worse.
The idea isn’t really new, however. It has been kicked around for years by utopian internationalists. But the idea gained new respectability in 1999 when the United Nations Development Programme proposed the creation of such an agency in its Human Development Report, “Globalization with a Human Face.”
“Reinventing global governance is not an option,” said the report, “it is an imperative for the 21st century.”
This year Laura Tyson, former head of President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers, made the same proposal in the prestigious journal, Foreign Affairs. On Aug. 14 she held a press conference at the site of the Democratic National Convention where she stated that such an agency is strongly supported by Mr. Gore’s top environmental and economic advisers. “Clearly this is going to be a major issue for him,” she said.
No one should be surprised by this admission. This is the same guy who wrote in “Earth in the Balance” that “the time has come to make this struggle [the rescue of the environment] the central organizing principle of world civilization.”
Although Mr. Gore says that there needs to be “widespread agreement that it should be the organizing principle,” his actions have shown that he is willing “to use every policy and program, every law and institution, every treaty and alliance, every tactic and strategy, every plan and course of action,” to further his radical agenda regardless of public opposition.
The Kyoto Protocol on global warming is a case in point. The agreement would require the United States to reduce its energy use by 30 percent over the next decade or 7 percent below 1990 levels. That would inflict serious economic harm on the United States, as well as the rest of the developed world. It also exempts the majority of the world’s countries from any energy use constraints whatsoever.
The U.S. Senate has made it clear that it will not ratify the treaty as it now stands. But the administration and executive agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, have attempted to circumvent the clear will of the people’s representatives by implementing the treaty on the sly. Fortunately, Congress has proactively thwarted these efforts by explicitly prohibiting such activities and exercising its oversight powers.
The Clinton-Gore administration has not given up, however. It realizes that imposing a massive, internationally based regulatory scheme on the American people may have been overly ambitious. Americans, after all, have always resisted being governed by international treaties that would affect the everyday decisions they take for granted; the way they heat their homes, their freedom of movement, the operation of their businesses, and so on.
A GEA, on the other hand, may be a way to leapfrog public opinion. Rather than a specific regulatory regime it would have a nebulous but nice-sounding mission, such as saving the planet, with broad powers to carry it out.
And there is a clear precedent in the practice of the U.S. Congress to delegate much of its power to federal agencies. It outlines broad policy goals and grants the agencies rule-making authority to achieve them.
Fortunately, the U.S. system of checks and balances has reined-in the more egregious abuses of federal agencies. The courts, for example, have struck down dozens of EPA rules, some due to overreaching. Indeed, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit called one EPA rule “arbitrary and capricious.” A GEA would have no such judicial oversight.
Would Congress cede such authority to a world body? It already has. The World Trade Organization has the authority to enact rules governing world trade. The U.S. agreed to be subject to those rules when it ratified the treaty that created the WTO. Congress, by a supreme act of will, could defy WTO rulings, but the United States would still be subject to punitive sanctions. A similar granting of power to an agency with the power to regulate the internal affairs of independent nations would be disastrous.
The greatest obstacle to global governance has been the U.S. Constitution’s checks and balances that protect U.S. citizens from the grandiose schemes of folks like Al Gore. A GEA would, once and for all, give the eco-activists the power to carry out their agenda without the consent of the governed.
Paul Georgia is an environmental policy analyst with the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, and managing editor of Cooler Heads, a newsletter covering global warming issues.