Croker Sack

"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." — Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956)

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

A Plain-spoken Diplomat

Dr. Harlan L. Watson seems to be a relatively plain-spoken person.

His official title is a mouthful: Senior Climate Negotiator and Special Representative and Alternate Head of the U.S Delegation to the tenth session of the Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change (which is being held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 6-17, 2004).

In his opening remarks and during the question and answer session on December 7, Dr. Watson stated:

I want to close my opening remarks by referring to President Bush’s commitment he made in June 2001 to develop with friends and allies and nations throughout the world an effective and science-based response to address climate change. The United States supports the development of an integrated approach to partnerships among governments, the private sector and NGOs that promotes economic growth, improves economic efficiency and productivity, enhances energy security, increases the availability of cleaner, more efficient energy resources and, of course, reduces pollution – all in ways that have the effect of reducing nations’ greenhouse gas intensity.

We believe that economic development is absolutely key to addressing this issue, because without economic development and economic growth around the world we are not going to be able to afford the new technologies that we need to address the problem in the long term. [Emphasis added.]
During the Q&A session, one questioner wanted to skip ahead to the period after the initial stages of the Kyoto Protocol’s process. Since the U.S. withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol, the reporter apparently wanted to get a headstart on discussing the next possible occasion when the agreement of the U.S. might be sought.

German Radio: Can you please tell us how would an international climate change protection regime from the time after 2012 have to look so it could be ratified by the U.S.?
Dr. Watson: Quite frankly, we don't believe it's time to address the post-2012 time frame. We are very focused on implementing the President's program domestically. We think there are many lessons that will be learned from that process, which can inform the international process. We believe the same is true for those who will be working to implement the Kyoto Protocol. Of course, what is still to be decided among the Kyoto Parties is the type of compliance regime that will be agreed to; whether, of course, the Kyoto mechanisms - exactly how all those will work out. Of course, European trading systems and other trading systems under development still have to be implemented. Again, we will learn many, many lessons from that. And, quite frankly, whether or not the Kyoto Parties will be willing to take on what we believe would be non-growth economic policies; [they will be] required to meet the targets. So, for all of these reasons, we do not believe that it is the appropriate time to talk about post-2012 negotiations. [Emphasis added.]

A little later, a questioner wondered if the U.S. considered the Kyoto Protocol to be a “science-based response.” Quite correctly, Dr. Watson noted that the protocol was a political agreement among the parties who chose that particular way to address the problem.

Energy Daily: You mentioned the President's statement in June 2001 committing to a science-based response to the problem of global warming. Can we infer that the U.S. does not consider the Kyoto Protocol to be based on sound science?
Dr. Watson: The Kyoto Protocol was a political agreement. It was not based on science.
It remains to be seen whether journalists can understand the distinction between agreeing to follow one path, rather than another, and using science to determine what paths are available.

Then came the “have you stopped beating your wife” question:

German Press Agency: You've been telling us all the efforts the U.S. is making concerning climate change. Can you tell us when the world can expect that GHG emissions will really decrease? In which year will this be - in 2020 or when would that be? And a second question, if you allow me, what went wrong in American way of life that you have almost doubled GHG emissions in comparison to countries in Europe with the same living standard, more or less? What went wrong in the States? [Emphasis added.]
Dr. Watson: Let me address the last part first, and I'll turn to my colleague in the Department of Energy to perhaps provide some more detail on some of our technology programs. Nothing went wrong in the U.S. We are blessed with economic growth. In most developed countries and developing countries economic growth implies more energy use, which typically implies more emissions. I might say, by the way, that your sweeping statement about European reductions does not hold across-the-board, because you should know there have been substantial increases in a number of countries in Europe. I'm not going to name any countries, but I think you all know who they are. [Emphasis added.]

This was the closest Dr. Watson came to answering a question without being plain-spoken – perhaps because he didn’t want to get into a discussion about the severe recessions that followed the collapse of the Soviet empire and the reduced emissions which resulted from that event.

If there has been less growth in emissions in Europe as a whole compared to the U.S., it may be a safe bet that the difference stemmed from the factor which Dr. Watson pointed out – economic growth. The U.S. economy has ordinarily grown at a faster pace compared to Europe since 1990, while several European countries have suffered from economic stagnation and recession during that period.


Post a Comment

<< Home