Planet Gore

A Global-Warming Treaty without a Vote?

UN climate chief Christiana Figueres opened COP 19, the UN climate conference in Warsaw by proclaiming that, “a new universal climate agreement is within our reach.”

Speeches today made continual references to Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda. Philippine negotiator Yeb Sano said, “We can stop this madness. Right here in Warsaw. Typhoons such as Haiyan and its impacts represent a sobering reminder to the international community that we cannot afford to procrastinate on climate action.” Mr. Sano disagreed with those of us who have characterized the typhoon as “natural” saying that, “it is not natural when people continue to eradicate poverty and pursue development and get battered by the onslaught of a monster storm.”

The devastation that occurred in the Philippines is gut wrenching. When you see scenes of such devastation, your heart goes out to the victims of the storm. Our prayers are with them, and for nations and individuals to lend a helping hand is the right thing to do. However, using this tragic storm to boost the global warming agenda is either naive or shameless. Natural is exactly what the typhoon was. That is the reliable scientific verdict. Nothing in the climate data shows otherwise.

Whether Ms. Figueres can actually make the progress she hopes for toward the new climate treaty is largely dependent on whether Russia and its former satellites are willing to drop the serious allegations they have made regarding procedural fairness in the UN climate process.

Russia blocked a crucial negotiating track at the UN’s subsidiary climate talks held in Bonn in June. The Russian move caused the most important part of the talks to collapse. No real business could be conducted.

In the topsy-turvy world of UN climate politics, Russia — joined by Ukraine, Belarus and other former members of the Soviet Union — have become the champions of democratic process.

On October 28, Russia sent a strongly worded letter [Read a PDF here] to the UNFCCC secretariat decrying the UN’s use of “consensus” rather than permitting nations to vote on matters as important as conference outcomes. “Decision-making in the UNFCCC process has suffered evident setbacks over the past few years with serious procedural and legal flaws being multiplied, transparency eroding, frequency of dubious proceedings acquiring alarming magnitude and conduct of business deviating” from UNFCCC rules, Russia complained.

“Consensus” has become perhaps the most abused word in the global-warming dictionary. Many are familiar with the talking point that claims some huge number of scientists as being on board with extreme global warming views (97 percent in the latest version). That consensus talking point was long ago debunked, yet it keeps cropping up. We even heard it recently from the lips of the President of the United States.

The “consensus” the Russians are talking about is still worse. Top officials at the climate talks, finding due process and democracy to be tiresome wastes of time, have dispensed with formal voting and resorted to gaveling through back-room agreements even on final conference outcomes.

As COP 18 in Doha drew to a close, the presiding officer gaveled down the Russian delegation which was furiously seeking to be recognized. Representatives of other countries The fast with his gavel Qatari chairman of COP 18 including India, Venezuela, Bolivia report being denied recognition, threatened, or coerced at prior conferences.

E.U. Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard was not sympathetic to Russia’s case saying, “It would be irresponsible and reckless if we let the Warsaw COP get drowned in procedural issues. What we need to discuss is real action and real commitments. The rest — it’s not that it’s uninteresting but it should not be at the centre stage.” Commissioner Hedegaard ia apparently ready to cede the sovereignty of nations and vast sums of money to the UN in the name of global warming with little regard for process and without even a vote.

Russia’s objections are motivated by national interest. As CFACT reported from Bonn, Russia is concerned with the “hot air” issue. Russia was not at all pleased when the UN COP pulled the plug in Doha on all the emissions credits Russia had acquired under the first Kyoto treaty and told Russia it couldn’t carry them forward. Russia, which has announced that it will not be part of a second commitment period for the Kyoto protocol and has signaled a reluctance to sign on in Paris, wants to keep its credits anyway. Russia would like to sell its old credits to the countries which do sign.

Russia accrued the carbon credits it is so set on retaining as a reward for its economy having for so long lagged behind the West’s, thanks to Russia’s failed experiment with and painful transition out from under communism. As CFACT observed in Bonn, the notion that Russia deserves compensation for inflicting communism on Eastern Europe is bizarre at best. If anything, Russia should be compensating Poland, the rest of the Warsaw block and a host of developing nations which had their prosperity stymied by communism for generations.

As COP 19 moves into working sessions, we will learn more about whether Russia was able to gain sufficient concessions in closed, pre-conference negotiations to placate it. Will Russia drop or table its objections? Russia was willing to shut down a subsidiary meeting in Bonn. Is Russia willing to do the same to a full-blown UN conference of the parties?

If Russia drops its objections, could the Warsaw outcome and ultimately the UN’s long sought climate treaty of Paris be adopted with world nations never having been given the opportunity to actually voting?

If the UN succeeds in adopting a climate treaty in Paris that treaty will still be subject to ratification by the U.S. Senate, which appears very unikely to occur. However, we should not underestimate the damage such a treaty will inflict. The Senate never ratified the Kyoto protocol and the Clinton administration did not press the issue. Nonetheless, Americans are dealing with the ramifications of Kyoto every day. The Obama administration has no scruples about going it alone, bypassing the Senate and using EPA and other agencies to implement the UN climate agenda through regulation and executive order. Does any doubt remain that if the UN gets its treaty, that the Obama administration and its fellow travelers will do all they can to implement it — with or without a vote?

Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

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