Friday, December 18, 2009

The Obamians in Copenhagen

President Obama sent Hillary Clinton to Copenhagen to work her supposed diplomatic magic there. It doesn't sound as if it's working. First she is prevaricating about a basic fact that everyone knows.
In private meetings, Clinton bluntly told foreign leaders that her husband had negotiated and signed Kyoto, but could not persuade senators to approve it.
That was after the Senate voted 95 to 0 not to accept any agreement that didn't call for similar reductions from India and China. Clinton didn't even send the Kyoto Treaty to the Senate to be voted on. So much for how much he was trying to persuade 2/3 of the Senate to approve it.

So our newest offer is for the US to pony up 20 to 30% of a fund to give money to undeveloped countries to reduce their carbon emissions.
The new U.S. commitments came after after comments by major participants in the talks, most notably China, that chances of even a modest deal were fading. The United States backed what amounts to the single biggest transfer of wealth from rich to poor nations for any one cause -- in a sense offering compensation for decades of warming the Earth.

Clinton pledged that the country would help mobilize $100 billion a year in public and private financing by 2020 -- an amount that is almost equal to the total value of all developmental aid and concessional loans granted to poor nations by the United States, Europe and other donors this year. She did not specify how much the U.S. government would commit to giving, but a senior administration official said it would be 20 to 30 percent. Administration officials said they envisioned most of the money coming from private sources, or from revenue generated by a cap-and-trade scheme, but other sources could include redirecting existing subsidies or a tax on bunker fuel.
Of course, cap and trade won't pass the Senate and that it would generate such sums is quite a bizarre claim. Even if it did, isn't that money supposed to be targeted to help Americans deal with the burdens imposed by cap and trade? If there were such money available from private sources, then we don't need such a big international agreement. And of course the deal depends on China letting international observers in to check up on their policies.
Western leaders pointed to China's resistance to international monitoring as a major stumbling block to hammering out an agreement. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who declined to attend a pre-plenary emergency meeting with Obama and other world leaders, sending an aide instead, urged delegates in his own remarks to trust his country's pledge to reduce its carbon intensity by 40 to 45 percent.

"We will honor our word with real action," Wen said. "Whatever outcome this conference may produce, we will be fully committed to achieving and even exceeding the target."
Yeah, right.

And if we're going to be funding this sum, where is the money really going to be coming from? It will come from funding our debt by money borrowed from...China!

As the Copenhagen Conference winds down, it seems that a major concern by all involved is to protect Barack Obama from looking bad.
At a time when he’s juggling several political chain saws — health care reform, a Wall Street overhaul, a jobless and joyless recovery — a humiliating setback in Denmark could hobble Obama.

That his aides would seek to lower expectations for Copenhagen is a no-brainer. What’s more surprising is the degree to which the Europeans — and even some activists in American nongovernmental organizations — also realize that a damaged Obama hurts their agenda in the international arena and in Congress.

During the past two weeks here, international NGOs gathered each day to give a “Fossil of the Day” award to the country that was doing the most to hurt environmental efforts. American groups fought to keep the United States and Obama from getting the dishonor, according to one activist who took part in the fight.

Eventually, the United States was given the fossil award, but not without an argument, said the activist — who is publicly critical of Obama and his environmental policies.

That sense of protectiveness is even more pronounced in Europe, where the president has a seemingly inexhaustible well of goodwill, enjoying a 77 percent approval rate, according to a September poll by The German Marshall Fund.

“Because of Obama’s stature, the Europeans gain more from saying they got a good outcome than bashing the U.S.,” said Michael Levi, a fellow for Energy and the Environment at the Council on Foreign Relations.

While differences remain between Europe and the U.S. — most notably on long-term emission targets, financing and transparency — observers close to the talks agreed that the Europeans had gone far to help out the president. And they may ultimately punt on financing and paper over other differences to buy him more time on Capitol Hill.
All that help from his European allies won't help him get such money out of Capitol Hill. Whatever money that is presumably there is already targeted from his health care boondoggle, his stimulus porkapalooza, and for whatever new jobs program they come up with to try to persuade voters next year that they are dealing with Americans' major concern. And don't forget the war in Afghanistan. Cap and trade won't pass. Payments to the $100 billion slush fund to give out to kleptocracies around the globe is not going to be a popular measure in today's economic environment. This is all playacting on the international stage to pretend that we're doing something. And President Obama seemed to really think that he could swoop in and bring everyone to an agreement merely by the miracle of his blessed presence. It hasn't worked out that way. As Jim Geraghty writes,
From the tone of his remarks, President Obama seems genuinely surprised that an international conference is generating a lot of talk about the importance of the problem but no consensus on the solutions; that countries don't want to sacrifice their standard of living or economic growth to mitigate an environmental issue that seems far in the future; nobody wants to give up some of their wealth so that some other country won't have to give up as much... and that China is not persuaded by his charms nor the ten millionth invocation of, "now is the time to act."

Many of us aren't surprised by any of this at all, but on the radio this morning, they said Obama's frustration was evident. Apparently, he expected the conference to go quite differently.
It should be enough that The One has spoken, but just like so much of his efforts on the international stage this year, it was not enough.

Meanwhile, everyone there tries to ignore the increasing doubts rising out of the leaked emails and computer files from East Anglia. This may well be the high water mark of the global warming crowd and Obama's fly-in could be the symbol of the futility of the whole gathering.