TCS Daily

TCS COP 10 Coverage: Words vs. Deeds

By Duane D. Freese - December 16, 2004 12:00 AM

BUENOS AIRES - The bearded man stood up, mumbled his credentials into the mike, and then addressed this question in a British accent to a panel of U.S. officials:

"What is it like for you as individuals to do your work on climate change for an administration that millions of people around the world feel anger, disrespect and contempt?"

So goes the theater provided by several Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) here at the 10th Annual Conference of the Parties of the United Nation's Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-10).

Outside the Convention Center at La Rural, Greenpeace has set up its office -- a facsimile of Noah's Ark. Meanwhile the World Wildlife Federation displays dozens of wader boots to emphasize the massive flooding alarmists claim a warmer world will cause. And inside the center itself, activists engage in petty sniping at U.S. officials for the Bush administration's rejection of the Kyoto Protocol with its emission caps for developed nations.

Harlan Watson, the chief climate negotiator for the United States, put it succinctly at a press conference the week before when he was asked why the U.S. was perceived as the "bad boy" in Buenos Aires:

"Let me just say that perhaps there's a perception that it is more important to agree to things rather than taking actions. We believe the focus ought to be on the actions."

So what are those actions? Not only is the Bush administration committing more than any other country or group of countries -- $5.8 billion in 2005 -- to improving the science and technology and their dissemination, it is leveraging that money to create significantly more spending by the private sector and foreign governments.

This story of U.S. climate partnerships remains one of the least explored by the media here, which has focused mostly on top down regulatory authority and the antics of demonstrators, rather than bottom up efforts that produce real gains.

You would hardly know that the Bush administration has engaged 14 countries -- that together emit 80% of human-produced greenhouse gases -- in bilateral partnerships to monitor and find ways to reduce those emissions.

You probably haven't heard that the United States is spending $53 million on a multilateral "methane to markets" program with 13 other countries to reduce that most potent of greenhouse gases. The program has the potential to curtail 50 million tons of carbon equivalent emissions a year. That's like taking 33 million cars off the road and is enough energy to heat 7.2 million homes.

And you definitely haven't been told much by the media about the administration's spending $180 million next year in its Global Climate Change Partnership to help developing countries employ cleaner technology as they grow. The 45 local projects performed by the program dwarf the one project undertaken by the U.N.'s Clean Development Mechanism.

This approach is fast becoming a paradigm for how to proceed intelligently on the climate change issue.

Meanwhile Italy has announced it will be leaving Kyoto after 2012 and will engage in multilateral partnerships instead. China and India have rejected being made subject to any type of emissions cap and trade scheme, as the Kyoto Protocol would require, but will instead engage in partnerships that will enable them to gain quicker access to clean technologies so they can reduce future emissions while continuing to grow.

For example, 65 percent of China's power today comes from coal; 1 percent from nuclear; almost all of the rest from natural gas and oil. It hopes to increase its nuclear to 20 percent. Making that safer and helping it adopt cleaner, more efficient coal plants as part of its energy mix could have a dramatic impact on its future levels of greenhouse gases. But it is a process that needs to start today, not in 2012 as is called for under Kyoto today.

"The parties to the convention (COP-10) have been working on policies for a long time without enough weight in technology and research and development," said Gao Feng, deputy director general of China's ministry of foreign affairs. "The U.S. is leading the world in their partnerships working for the climate."

The greens are right about one thing: on climate issues, there is a need for action. But it isn't their action -- top-down regulation and control that will jeopardize economies. Instead it's action such as the Bush administration is pursuing to get the science right, develop better technology and break down barriers to its spread of technology that will make the world a better place.


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