TCS Daily

One Nation, Under Kofi

By Nick Schulz - May 24, 2002 12:00 AM

There is a kind of political reactionary who sees everywhere a global conspiracy that's developing a massive supra-state and regulatory regime. The fear is that the supra-state will trample your rights and sublimate the sovereignty of your own country. It's a regime you didn't vote for and one you refuse to recognize as legitimate. The problem is -- despite how plausible the "X-files" seemed or how vigorously you shake your sweaty head like a bobble-head doll when you see Pat Buchanan on C-SPAN -- this multi-tentacled leviathan apparatus doesn't really exist.

And when considering these folks - members of the black helicopter crowd -- it's difficult not to waver back and forth between pity for their delusions and paranoia, and laugh-out-loud derision for precisely same. But as much as it pains me to admit this, the black helicopter crowd is like a stopped clock that happens to be right twice a day. Every now and again something comes along and you can only conclude - reluctantly, hesitantly, painfully -- that they might, just might, have a smidgen of a point. Sometimes there doesn't seem to be any other explanation.

This week, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) released its "Global Environment Outlook-3" report, 30 years after the Stockholm conference that created UNEP. Big deal, you say, what's another report form the UN, the consummate navel-gazing and paper pushing toothless entity? Why should anyone care?

Well, just three months from now, hyper-earnest and badly-dressed representatives from almost every nation on earth will gather in South Africa for the euphemistically titled World Summit on Sustainable Development, a.k.a the Johannesburg Summit. This report will serve as its action program. And judging from the report's ambitions, Johannesburg could get pretty interesting.

Now, some of the summit's goals sound reasonable enough (if largely fantastical and abstract) in their broad brushstrokes, such as "alleviating poverty" and "improving governance." After all, who is in favor of poverty or bad government? And the report is filled with presumably harmless platitudes. For example, it says that "changing mindsets" is necessary to reach its environmental and development goals.

But the UNEP's agenda is getting gradually more ambitious -- and more detailed -- with the release of each new report. This report calls for, among scores of other things, "reducing the excessive consumption of the more affluent" as well as "providing adequate funding for environmental programmes." Now we're getting somewhere. These two goals can, of course, be achieved by taxing the more affluent to make it more difficult to consume excessively and transferring the funds to environmental programmes such as those at the UN (indeed, they can't really be achieved any other way).

The report also lists scores of specific items for the upcoming conference to act upon. And here's where things get really interesting because we move from the realm of platitudes to actionable goals. For example, it calls on participants to "reinforce linkages between global and local [environmental institutions] and ensure that implementation and capacity are passed on to local authorities" [emphasis added]. This is UN-speak that means make organizations like the EPA or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the Department of Interior (and even state environmental regulatory agencies) do what the UN wants. After all, how else is the implementation of multilateral environmental agreements "passed on to local authorities"?

The report also demands that nations "strengthen capacities to build effective national compliance regimes" for complying with multilateral environmental agreements. This means putting more heat on countries like the United States to ratify and implement agreements such as the Kyoto protocol, which was designed to limit energy use.

There are some specifics developing for how to get this done, too. The report says participants should "mandate UNEP to strengthen coordination of multilateral environmental agreements." This can happen after we "establish a system of national reporting on international conventions to facilitate their close linkage to national policies and programmes." And with that, participating nations will agree to "allow international and regional institutions to handle environmental disputes and encourage them to enforce sanctions against non-compliant parties to strengthen the effectiveness of international agreements" [emphasis added]. Again, that's very wordy, but it boils down to one thing -- ceding American sovereignty to the UN and other regulatory bodies.

Now, all this is simply a wish list of wants, desires and objectives. There's no guarantee that any of this will necessarily be implemented. But as speechwriters are fond of saying, "rhetoric makes reality." In other words, you lay down the rhetorical architecture first, and it is hoped that the results will follow (e.g. "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"). After perusing this UN report, one conclusion is unmistakable: There is, indeed, a network of aggressive, well-funded and passionate elites seeking to impose a global regulatory regime. It's not fantasy to say so -- all you need to do is read the UN's literature. They may or may not succeed. But no one can say we didn't see it coming.

Now, is that a black helicopter I see?

URL Next Door -- This week's URL next door is the new and improved TCS readers will know of InstaPundit as the blog of contributing editor Glenn Reynolds. Glenn redesigned his site so that it's better than ever. This column has been a big supporter of the weblog phenomenon, despite the inherent problems with blogging (namely, that all writers, even the best, need good editors). But most blogs will not last forever, simply because they're too time consuming to maintain in a way that exploits the medium to its full potential -- as InstaPundit does. His will, thankfully, be around for a while since it is the best of the bunch. So check out his new site.



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