UN Climate Talks and the Power Politics: It's Not about the Temperature

Chairman Rohrabacher, Ranking member Carnahan, and members of the committee:

I will begin with my contentious conclusion, which is that the international diplomacy of climate change is the most implausible and unpromising initiative since the disarmament talks of the 1930s, and for many of the same reasons; that the Kyoto Protocol and its progeny are the climate diplomacy equivalent of the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928 that promised to end war (a treaty that is still on the books, by the way), and finally, that future historians are going to look back on this whole period as the climate policy equivalent of wage and price controls to fight inflation in the 1970s.

The diplomatic approach—the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change UNFCCC)—first set in motion formally at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 has reached a dead end. I think the dead end of what might be called "first generation climate diplomacy" was tacitly on view at the last major climate summit in Cancun a few months ago. It is important to understand the deeper reasons why if we are going to chart a new course on climate that has a better chance of making real progress.

When the issue of climate change came to the fore in the late 1980s, the diplomatic community approached it in a way that seemed eminently sensible on the surface: what diplomatic frameworks have worked before for similar kinds of global problems? In other words, diplomats reached for what was on the shelf. There were basically three models for problems of global reach that had shown varying degrees of success: the arms control and anti-proliferation regimes; the long-running and painstaking trade liberalization process; and third and perhaps most applicable, the Montreal Protocol that facilitated the organized phase out of chloroflourocarbons. The last two, especially the Montreal Protocol, are the precedents that former Vice President Gore liked to cite as reasons for his support and enthusiasm for the Kyoto Protocol. And on the surface the comparative logic seems plausible: if we can reach a binding and enforceable agreement to phase out chloroflourocarbons, why not a similarly-structured agreement to phase out hydrocarbons?

View the full text of this testimony as an Adobe Acrobat PDF

Steven F. Hayward is the F.K. Weyerhaeuser Fellow at AEI.

 

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Steven F.
Hayward
  • Steven F. Hayward was previously the F.K. Weyerhaeuser Fellow at AEI. He is the author of the Almanac of Environmental Trends, and the author of many books on environmental topics. He has written biographies of Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan and of Winston Churchill, and the upcoming book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Presidents. He contributed to AEI's Energy and Environment Outlook series. 

What's new on AEI

Holder will regret his refusal to obey the Constitution
image 'Flood Wall Street' climate protesters take aim at their corporate allies
image 3 opportunities for better US-India defense ties
image Is Nicolás Maduro Latin America's new man at the United Nations?
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 29
    MON
  • 30
    TUE
  • 01
    WED
  • 02
    THU
  • 03
    FRI
Thursday, October 02, 2014 | 9:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.
Campbell Brown talks teacher tenure

We welcome you to join us as Brown shares her perspective on the role of the courts in seeking educational justice and advocating for continued reform.

Event Registration is Closed
Friday, October 03, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Harnessing the power of markets to tackle global poverty: A conversation with Jacqueline Novogratz

AEI welcomes you to this Philanthropic Freedom Project event, in which Novogratz will describe her work investing in early-stage enterprises, what she has learned at the helm of Acumen, and the role entrepreneurship can play in the fight against global poverty.

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.