Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat and the international diplomats are set to celebrate the season with an eagerly anticipated round of America-bashing in Montreal. This event, known as the “conference of parties” (“COP”) to the 1990 U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, is a periodic affair where global climate change is discussed in general, and the United States excoriated in particular for its refusal to adopt the Kyoto Protocol. As both the Clinton and Bush administrations recognized, this flawed treaty would have crippled American economic expansion while doing little to address the global warming problem — assuming this is, indeed, happening.
This time around, the featured American sin will be the Bush administration’s opposition to beginning a new “dialogue,” within the convention’s framework, on how to reduce “greenhouse gas” emissions. The administration ought to be commended for resisting this seemingly innocuous suggestion, since it is nothing more than a ruse designed to pull the United State back into the flawed world of command-and-control approaches to climate change.
Despite the claims by new dialogue proponents — principally the Canadians, supported by the flock of NGOs that routinely descend on COP meetings — that it would fundamentally depart from the flawed Kyoto strategy, any such talks would, by definition, involve emission limitations and timetables. Yet, limiting those emissions using the current technologies means constraining economic growth and condemning billions of people to live in poverty. This approach will never be accepted by the developing countries.
Accordingly, the United States favors a “technology-centric” approach — the development of revolutionary “zero emission” technologies for the power generation, manufacturing and transportation sectors. This type of intense R&D does not lend itself to negotiation; it is primarily the province of private enterprise, and the one in which the developing countries are eager to participate. Indeed, the Bush administration has already brought India and China, together with Australia and Japan, into an Asia-Pacific partnership to test its technology-centric approach.
In addition to focusing on research, development and commercialization of key technologies, this group espouses a balanced answer to the many difficult issues surrounding global climate change, in which greenhouse gas reduction imperatives are pursued in conjunction with other environmental and developmental goals. It is essential that this effort be given time to bear fruit.