Less than a week before a G8 meeting at which Tony Blair tried but failed to get the major industrialized nations to commit to major greenhouse gas cuts, George Bush announced his own climate change conference. The Guardian writes that this action “threw international efforts to control climate change into confusion.” In addition to the G8 summit, this summer will bring a UN conference that will create the successor to the Kyoto Protocol. Bush officially withdrew the US from that protocol early in his term in office.
This is far from the first time that President Bush has created his own coalition after repudiating existing mechanisms for producing international consensus. When the United Nations refused to authorize the war in Iraq, he assembled his own loose coalition outside the UN’s auspices. He withdrew from an inconvenient nuclear arms treaty and negotiated a different deal with Russia. The deal reached between the Bush administration, North Korea and an ad hoc group of Asian powers is substantially similar to a deal reached in 1994 by the Clinton administration, a deal repudiated early in the Bush presidency.
Some observers have argued that this is an intentional attempt to undermine and destroy the existing international infrastructure. Proponents of this view also cite former UN ambassador John Bolton’s claim that the top floors of UN headquarters could be removed without any ill effects.
Few people claim that the Kyoto Protocol is perfect. Some criticize its low emissions reductions, others criticize the treatment of the developing world, and others object to the loss of sovereignty implicit in any international treaty. That protocol was designed as only the first step out of many, and US intransigence on the issue has blocked that first step. The Bali Protocol would be the next step, and like Kyoto, would require US involvement to be effective. Creating parallel and incompatible regimes protecting the climate will only endanger our nation and our world’s security and economy. This administration’s isolated approach to successful international organizations serves no one’s interests.