AFL-CIO Breaks With Administration on Climate Change Treaty

Published June 1, 1997

In a major setback for the Clinton administration’s climate change policies, the Executive Committee of the AFL-CIO has declared its opposition to a proposed treaty, currently under negotiation, that would impose legally binding limits on emissions of greenhouse gases by developed countries.

The labor group, a key constituency of the Democratic Party, urged that the “President should not accept and the Congress should not ratify any amendment or protocol” to the so-called Berlin Mandate that does not “seek a reduction schedule compatible with the urgent need to avoid unfair and unnecessary job loss in developed countries.”

The Berlin Mandate to the 1992 Rio Treaty requires developed countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000, while exempting rapidly developing nations such as China, India, Brazil, Mexico, and Korea from the reduction mandate.

In a statement distributed February 20 at the negotiations on the Berlin Mandate, the AFL-CIO declared that as much as 60 percent of all global carbon emissions are expected to come from the developing countries in the next few decades, “with China becoming the single largest emitter in the near future.” “The exclusion of new commitments by developing nations under the Berlin Mandate,” the statement goes on, “will create a powerful incentive for transnational corporations to export jobs and capital and pollution and will do little or nothing to stabilize atmospheric concentrations of carbon. Such an uneven playing field will cause the loss of high-paying U.S. jobs in mining, manufacturing, transport, and other areas.”

Elaborating on the AFL-CIO’s position, Bill Cunningham, a spokesman for the organization, said labor finds it “amazing that harsh, arbitrary flat rate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions [imposed only on developed countries] are being proposed and contemplated without regard to their impact on working people. . . [it’s] even more galling when we find that there is no scientific evidence [this] will solve the greenhouse problem. In fact, it might even exacerbate it.”

In a clear indication of the AFL-CIO’s growing misgivings about the administration’s climate change policies, the labor group called on the “responsible agencies of the U.S. government to provide it and its affiliates with any existing studies of the economic impact of future treaty obligations and, further, make available the results of the economic modeling effort currently being undertaken by the government within 30 days of its completion.”

PF: More information on the AFL-CIO’s objections to the proposed climate change treaty is available from PolicyFax. Call 847-202-4888 and request document #????????.