TCS Daily


By Craig Winneker - February 23, 2005 12:00 AM

BRUSSELS -- Forgive the late report on last week's entering into force of the Kyoto Protocol, but I thought it might be a good idea to wait for the euphoria to wear off before attempting a coherent analysis of this historic development. Even at this point, it may not be possible to provide.

Not my euphoria -- everybody else's. Several deep, cleansing breaths have been necessary in the face of what can only be described as the religious fervor that greeted the coming of Kyoto in Europe's bureaucratic and political circles. It was practically a new EU holiday. Vigils were held, ribbon-cuttings performed, commemorative paraphernalia distributed, hosannas sung. The only thing missing was some sort of lofty anthem.

All this is strange, given that even Kyoto's most fervent apostles admit, when forced, that it will do little if anything to reverse global warming trends and will, instead, have a chilling effect on Europe's already frigid economy. But you wouldn't know that from the public reaction -- especially in the press -- to what quickly became known as "Kyoto Day."

Switzerland's Tribune de Genève overheats a lot more quickly than the atmosphere is, breathlessly saluting the arrival of the "Historic Kyoto treaty to save world from warming" -- something which no one claims it will in fact do. Norway's Aftenposten also waxes poetic -- nay, historic. "In a world with many dark clouds hanging over it, Kyoto is a ray of hope," it writes. "In historical terms, the battle to save the environment and combat pollution has only just begun." France's Libération described the protocol as "one small step for diplomacy, but one giant leap for humanity". (It would not be the only paper to paraphrase Neil Armstrong in analyzing Kyoto. Here's how climate researcher Roy Spencer put it in USA Today, turning Libération's argument upside down.) The legendarily left-wing paper is at least slightly realistic about what the treaty will and will not do. "The most important aspect of Kyoto -- a text from which we should expect no miracles -- is that a first step has been taken. Another future is conceivable." But, the paper predicts, this future will require several more giant leaps.

And this is why Europe's environmental activists -- and a sizeable chunk of its political elite -- have already moved on from Kyoto and started talking about post 2012 climate change policy. A quantum leap in emissions reduction. To Kyoto...and beyond!

Or, better yet, Go Kyoto! That, anyway, was the catchy slogan printed on spiffy little commemorative pins distributed by the European Commission on 16 February, Kyoto Day. There were two little round globes on the pin and for a minute I thought it might be a souvenir from a Japanese baseball team. But instead it's just another talismanic example of the way Europe is choosing to turn the treaty -- and environmental policy in general -- into a kind of cult. I hope there will be similarly kitschy and collectible merchandise available for all the big EU treaties.

Other avant-garde oddities were on display in Brussels last week, including an unusual installation on Rond Point Schuman, the heart of the EU quarter. It consisted of a giant white balloon onto which environmental slogans and pictures were projected. (It was at least easier to look at than the previous installation: an enormous baby missing a leg, meant to illustrate the campaign against land mines.)

Perhaps best of all was the VIP party held on the top floor of the Commission's recently remodeled headquarters, the Berlaymont building. Thanks are due to the Financial Times newspaper for pointing out not only that no Americans were invited to the event (fair enough), but also that plain sparkling wine was served instead of real Champagne. Why? Because there is no organic Champagne. Funny, I would have thought they'd have avoided any type of beverage that emits gas.



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