Cancun Climate Talks Fizzle, But U.S. Agrees to Expensive New Program

Published January 3, 2011

With China, India, and other developing nations refusing to accept binding restrictions on their carbon dioxide emissions, international climate talks in Cancun, Mexico ended without any significant agreement. Nevertheless, Obama administration delegates promised the U.S. would participate in a costly wealth transfer to developing nations that could cost the average U.S. household up to $160.

Japan Demands Equality
As the talks began on November 29, Jun Arima, deputy director general for environmental affairs at Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, stunned global warming activists by telling reporters Japan would not sign an extension of the Kyoto Protocol and would not sign a new climate treaty unless all major emitters, including developing nations such as China and India, agree to carbon dioxide restrictions.

Although Japan signed the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012, Japanese officials have expressed concern the nation has hamstrung its economy with carbon dioxide restrictions and put itself at a competitive disadvantage with regional economic competitors such as China and India who refuse to restrict their emissions.

Globally, China emits more carbon dioxide than any other nation, and India ranks fourth. Both nations emit more carbon dioxide than Japan, which ranks fifth.

China, India, and other developing nations that cumulatively a responsible for a majority of global carbon dioxide emissions have repeatedly insisted Western democracies such as the United States, which produce less than half of global carbon dioxide emissions, should dramatically cut their own emissions first, and then developing nations will consider trimming their emissions if the developed countries provide them sufficient financial compensation for doing so.

Developing Nations Demand Money
As Japan announced it would no longer agree to emissions restrictions so long as China and India refused to accept similar mandates, the impasse between developed nations and developing nations grew more entrenched with a series of papers submitted to UN officials at Cancun.

Most notably, Professor Kevin Andersen of the UK’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research submitted a paper arguing “rich” nations such as the U.S. should completely halt economic growth over the next 20 years while allowing developing nations such as China and India to continue their explosive economic growth and emissions growth. His paper advocated enforcement of economic growth restrictions in nations such as the United States by World War II-style rationing.

“The Second World War and the concept of rationing is something we need to seriously consider if we are able to address the scale of the problem we face,” wrote Anderson.

Record Cold Hits Cancun
While Japan’s refusal to accept one-sided carbon dioxide restrictions and developing nations’ monetary demands introduced a blast of proverbial cold air on the climate talks, Mother Nature directed more tangible cold air on the talks. As UN bureaucrats and environmental activist groups gathered at tropical beachside resorts in the Caribbean coastal town, temperatures in Cancun dropped down to the low 50s, setting record lows for several consecutive days.

Meanwhile, much of the United States and Western Europe simultaneously experienced record cold and snow during the Cancun talks, leading many to wonder whether where all the global warming was.

Last-Day Agreements
Attempting to devise something to justify all the pomp, expense, and carbon dioxide emissions associated with such a large-scale conference, attendees announced two final-day agreements that accomplished little of substance.

First, attendees agreed to establish a Green Climate Fund, by which developed nations such as the United States would make available $100 billion to developing nations, ostensibly to adapt to global warming and develop renewable power. Assuming the United States would get stuck with half the tab, this would require taxing each U.S. household an average of $160 to pay for the gift.

Second, attendees agreed to strive toward an 80 percent cut in global carbon dioxide emissions. While representatives from all but one of the nations in attendance agreed to the plan (Bolivia was the exception), the agreement was merely symbolic: No accord was reached regarding which nations would bear the brunt of the burden, and no structure was put into place for implementing or enforcing the emissions cuts.

Developing nations and environmental activist groups were seeking much more than the $160 tax per U.S. household. In the days leading up to the Cancun climate talks a coalition of developing nations called for Western democracies to hand over 1 percent of their gross domestic product per year to developing nations, ostensibly to help them pay for reducing their carbon dioxide emissions and adapt to global warming.

This would require the average U.S. household to pay $1,400 in new taxes every year.

No New Agreements
“I think the talks were the ‘same-old-same-old,’ demonstrating yet again that global warming is more about taking money from the successful world and giving it to the unsuccessful one, than it is about climate change,” says Patrick Michaels, distinguished senior fellow in the School of Public Policy at George Mason University and senior fellow in environmental studies at the Cato Institute.

“Cancun ended more or less as expected,” agreed S. Fred Singer, founder of the Science and Environmental Policy Project. “The Kyoto Protocol will not be extended, and there will be no new agreements at least until the next UN Conference of the Parties in December 2011 in South Africa.”

“This is the nearly inescapable consequence of the failed model, frozen in amber since UN climate talks first began. Wealth-donor states are being extorted by wealth-donee states, with any change in classification for the wealth donee states coming at the price of a heavy bribe — which continues to haunt the enterprise,” said Chris Horner, senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

“Some say Cancun was a beacon of ‘hope’. I can only think this means that the unsuccessful continue to ‘hope’ that we will ‘change’ and send them our largesse,” added Michaels.

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News.