US castigated for its stance in climate change summit
By Khalid Hasan
WASHINGTON: In a stinging editorial captioned ‘America’s shame in Montreal,’ the New York Times on Tuesday castigated the Bush administration for the stance it took on greenhouse gas emissions at the just concluded meeting on climate change in the French-Canadian city.
“At least the Americans’ shameful foot-dragging did not bring the entire process to a complete halt, and for this the other industrialised countries, chiefly Britain and Canada, deserve considerable praise,” wrote the paper in its leading article. “It cannot be easy for America’s competitors to move forward with costly steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while the United States refuses to carry its share of the load. Nevertheless, the Europeans and other signatories to the 1997 treaty limiting greenhouse gas emissions - a treaty the Bush administration has rejected - promised to work toward new and more ambitious targets and timetables when the agreement lapses in 2012.”
The editorial continued, “For its part, the Bush administration deserves only censure. No one expected a miraculous conversion. But given the steadily mounting evidence of the present and potential consequences of climate change - disappearing glaciers, melting Arctic ice caps, dying coral reefs, threatened coastlines, increasingly violent hurricanes - one would surely have expected America’s negotiators to arrive in Montreal willing to discuss alternatives.
“They did not. Instead, the principal negotiators, Paula Dobriansky and Harlan Watson, continued to tout the benefits of an approach that combines voluntary reductions by individual companies with further research into ‘breakthrough’ technologies.”
The newspaper pointed out that at Montreal, the US was intent on making sure that the conferees required no more of it than what it is already doing to restrain greenhouse gas emissions, which amounts to virtually nothing. The editorial warned that such an attitude would not work and while a few companies may decide to proceed on their own, the private sector as a whole would neither create new technologies nor broadly deploy them unless all countries are required to do their share under a regime that combines agreed-upon targets with strong financial incentives for reaching them. “To believe that companies will spend heavily to reduce emissions while their competitors are not doing the same is to believe in the tooth fairy,” it added.
The Europeans, the editorial noted, are finding solace in the fact that the Americans finally agreed to join informal “non-binding” discussions that will try to entice developing countries like China and India into the process. Without getting the developing nations on board, any effort to keep greenhouses gases at manageable levels would come to nothing, the paper pointed out.
China, it said, is building coal-fired power plants at a rapid pace and is expected to overtake the United States as the biggest producer of greenhouse gases in 20 years. “But talk is cheap, and non-binding talk is even cheaper. And talk alone will not get the developing world into the game. Why should India and China make major sacrifices while the United States, in effect, gets a free ride? The battle against global warming will never be won unless America joins it, urgently and enthusiastically. Our grandchildren will look back with anger and astonishment if we fail to do so,” the leading article concluded.