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Thursday
Jun152017

Bush v. Trump on Kyoto & Paris

For those readers who are really interested in the consequences of Trumps 'pull-out' from the Paris Agreement, the following article by Dino Grandoni (see previous post) will have a double effect - it will give an indication of the quality of his articles on a broad range of climate related issues, but even more important, it gives quite a enlightening view of the respective examples of 'sabotage' wrought upon the remainder oif the World community by these two egregious (if on a different scale!), Republican Presidents. 

"To the consternation of much of the rest of the world, a Republican president has pulled out of a long-deliberated international climate agreement. Democrats howled in protest. Other world leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the accord, but its long-term fate is uncertain.
 
That is the state of affairs in 2017, but it was also the case in 2001. That year, President George W. Bush withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty that committed the United States and other developed nations to keeping greenhouse-gas emissions under set targets.
 
Sixteen years later, the next Republican to occupy the White House pulled out of another climate agreement, the Paris accord, which was thought to be more immune to change from a GOP-occupied White House given the flexibility it provided to change emissions targets.
 
One of the most useful ways to assess what happens next after President Trump’s decision to withdraw from Paris -- both to the United States’ standing abroad and to the fate of the agreement itself -- is to review the fallout following the end of U.S. participation in the Kyoto Protocol.
 
Let’s assess the past and the present situation by looking at two key similarities -- and one important difference:
 
Similarity: Both Trump and Bush were perceived by other nations as arrogant. But it was, curiously, for precisely opposite reasons.
 
In 2001, President Bush withdrew from Kyoto by writing a hastily drafted letter to Congress two months after entering office. Bush signed the letter, orchestrated by Vice President Cheney, without consulting his secretary of state, national security adviser or EPA administrator, according to the New York Times. The Times explains what happened next:

When Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, found out, she called Colin L. Powell, the secretary of state, at his office in Foggy Bottom. Alarmed, he told her, “Slow this thing down until I get there,” and rushed downstairs to his car to race over to the White House.

By the time he made it the few blocks to the West Wing, it was too late. Mr. Cheney had left to hand-deliver the letter to Capitol Hill. “It’s gone,” Ms. Rice told Mr. Powell.

Mr. Powell snapped at the president. “You’re going to see the consequences of it,” he said.

Trump, unlike Bush, did seek the advice of his Cabinet (and family members, notably daughter Ivanka) over the course of several months before coming to his decision. But the sense that Trump underwent a thoughtful review of the Paris implications before coming to a decision was undermined by his Rose Garden announcement, which was littered with inaccuracies and unnecessary taunts of other nations, such as Trump's line that "I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris."

Though some federal climate scientists certainly felt stifled during his administration, President Bush did not make a habit of publicly denigrating climate science in the same way as Trump and some of officials have. Writing to Congress to withdraw from Kyoto, Bush wrote, "My Administration takes the issue of global climate change very seriously."

Similarity: U.S. withdrawal strengthened the resolve of other nations -- for awhile. The U.S. withdrawal from Kyoto spurred the other nations of the world to compromise -- the European Union made key concessions to Japan, Russia and Australia -- and save Kyoto, which unlike Paris had yet to be ratified. In the summer of 2001, 178 nations reached a deal without the United States. 

U.S. withdrawal "galvanized the response to finalize Kyoto," said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists.

A similar resolve has been on display for months from the international community in the wake of Trump's election. After the 2016 presidential campaign, no nation publicly wavered in its support of Paris. After Trump’s announcement, big players like China, India and Europe reaffirmed their commitment to the accord.

Difference: The Paris accord is more resilient than the Kyoto Protocol.

One of the key sticking points in the Kyoto treaty was that developing nations, like China, did not have to cap emissions -- at least initially. Only developed nations needed to reduce their emissions, an obligation Bush (and, for that matter, the Senate in a resolution passed 95-0 in 1997) perceived as unfair. The expectation was that during the second round of talks more and more nations would step up and commit to legally binding emissions reductions.

But without U.S. participation, they did not step up.

"It was very difficult to get China or other developing countries to come in and join the Kyoto Protocol without having the United States in that agreement," Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International, said. "That weakened the agreement in the end, because it could never really evolve into a truly global agreement without the U.S. being in it."

In fact, the reverse happened: By the end of 2011, Japan, Russia and Canada all said they would not agree to the second commitment period.

Here's the key design difference between Kyoto and Paris: Developing nations have already signed on to the Paris accords. President Obama was able to convince poorer nations to agree to Paris from the start because the agreement let nations set voluntary (rather than mandatory, treaty-bound) targets that gave developing countries breathing room to grow their economies before they capped emissions.

"That's key," Morgan said of the Paris accord. "It's just much more resilient, I think, because you have everybody pretty much on board."

But the true test of that resiliency isn't found in the recent rhetoric of nations following Trump's decision. It will be when nations have to set new targets in 2020.

“I think that will be the real test for Paris," Meyer said."

 

 


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