In a few weeks, at least 20,000 people will gather to participate in the climate negotiations in Doha, Qatar – otherwise known as the COP or Conference of the Parties. Countless environmentalists will make the long tedious journey to their annual reunion, partying well into the night and jockeying to gain favor with left-leaning foundations and other funders.
For those departing Washington Dulles, it’s a 14,000 mile round trip and a corresponding carbon footprint that’s roughly equivalent to two-thirds of the annual CO2 emissions emitted from the average car in the United States.
But despite this crime against the planet, environmentalists will sleep well, knowing that their carbon emissions flying to and from the COP will be easily offset by EPA imposition of greenhouse gas regulations on the American consumer. It’s a sacrifice that the enviros are willing to make.
Of course, conscientious enviros will purchase carbon offsets. For just $10 per ton of CO2 emissions, an enviro activist can pay just under $40 to offset his or her trip to Doha. That’s a great bargain, compared to the “carbon” tax that the vast majority of American consumers pay at the pump – more than $35 per ton. In fact, some states face gasoline taxes that are as high as $65 per ton of carbon. This type of discrepancy isn’t new in the world of climate policy where working families and the poor are hit the hardest by carbon regulation. For someone who can afford to pay $1,000 for a ticket to attend a networking event half-way across the globe, what’s $40?
Unfortunately, enviro activists aren’t the only ones who frequently ask the poor to pay a disproportionate share for our climate crimes.
Governments are playing that game as well. Let’s look at host Qatar’s position. Certainly, Doha is an interesting place to host a COP, given the source of the country’s wealth, which flows from the global demand for petroleum.
Deemed by Forbes in 2010 to be the richest country in the world with a per capita income of $88,000, Qatar neither has emissions targets under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) or the Kyoto Protocol nor does it want them. Instead, Qatar – armed with a sovereign wealth fund estimated at $100 billion – is playing monopoly, investing billions of petro dollars in European businesses and refining projects in North Africa. In fact, the country has so much money that it’s willing to accept a massive financial loss from hosting the World Cup in 2022, with a large number of stadiums needing to be built only to be torn down after the tournament.
With that backdrop, one would think that Qatari officials would feel uncomfortable with hosting a process that seeks to shake down commitments from countries to reduce their CO2 emissions – particularly when all of those countries have lower per capita incomes. Not so. In fact, think the opposite.
Qatari officials, for example, plan to ask Bulgaria to accept additional targets up to 2020 and then beyond. Bulgaria has a Kyoto reduction target of 8 percent but only a per capita income of about $14,000 – not even one fifth of the level of Qatar’s.
That’s some nerve. And that’s the sort of thing that would provoke a reaction that could land you in jail in rural Southeast Missouri. But this is the world of the UNFCCC and this hypocrisy is par for the course.
The good news is that some major economies with carbon targets are losing patience with the process, particularly with developing country insistence that developed countries continue to accept reduction commitments while Beijing’s emissions continue to balloon. The Kyoto Protocol originally covered countries that accounted for about 30 percent of global emissions, but with the refusal of Russia, Canada, and Japan to accept post-Kyoto targets, that number is down to about 15 percent for Kyoto 2.
Naturally, the enviros tell a different tale, insisting that China and other large developing countries are on the verge of accepting targets in a post-2020 treaty to be negotiated at a future COP.
Certainly, the Chinese talk a good game and they’re masters of spin, claiming that their climate program has resulted in greater emissions reductions than any other national plan. Of course, that reduction is compared to a business-as-usual scenario with a future base – not an actual reduction in current emissions. The Chinese, moreover, have even sought climate credit for national policies on family planning. According to the government of China’s 2007 National Climate Change Program, “Since the implementation of the family planning program, over 300 million births have been averted nationally by 2005 … Averted births have resulted in an annual reduction of CO2 emissions by about 1-3 billion tons in 2005.” This so-called “One Child Policy” has been implicated in deplorable human rights abuses, including forced abortions and female infanticide. This is a real crime against humanity.
So in the lead-up to the COP negotiations, what mischief has Beijing been up to?
Last month, China hosted a meeting of the Like Minded Developing Countries on Climate Change. Participants included a who’s who list of countries that have troubled relations with the United States – Bolivia, Ecuador, Egypt, Pakistan, and Venezuela. Of course, it’s more than a coincidence that we have this grouping of countries. We can count on China using this proxy group to play the bad cop at the COP, particularly in negotiations with the United States and other developed economies. So Hugo Chavez will take the blame for preventing a real discussion of developing country emissions reductions, while Beijing plays the good cop, showcasing its commitment to fighting climate change without targets.
While China is playing climate change realpolitik, U.S. enviro activists will return from the COP with hangovers and the satisfaction that a re-elected President Obama will continue to back door the climate agenda thru the U.S. regulatory system. By the time a Kyoto 2 Treaty is negotiated at the 2015 COP, environmentalists expect to see the wrap up of EPA’s war against coal with a final proposal to regulate greenhouse gases from existing power plants.
With the guaranteed disappearance of coal from the U.S. energy mix, the United States would have a greater interest in negotiating a climate change treaty. Certainly, as a result of EPA regulation, we should all anticipate a rise in electricity prices and an erosion of U.S. economic competitiveness in the global marketplace. At that point, the enviros would hope that conservatives would begin to push for an international climate treaty to level out the playing field – most likely by 2020.
And then there’s the carbon tax. As pointed out in my blog post on October 26, the carbon tax clearly plays an important role in the long-term play by environmentalists to impose carbon constraints on other countries – with or without the UNFCCC.
In the unlikely scenario that the United States adopts a carbon tax in the short-term, China and other developing countries would face a tax on carbon-intensive products, which enviros hope would help promote a displacement of coal power across the globe in time to impact emissions trends leading up to Kyoto 3 negotiations.
But in the long term?
Clearly, getting caught between the imposition of a carbon tax and the destruction of U.S. industry by Chinese exporters would be an incredibly uncomfortable position. That’s a tough place to be for anyone.
Nothing much will come from this COP, but in the long run, it doesn’t have to because of the power of EPA. If the enviros have their way and destroy coal, we may very well see increased GOP support for a carbon tax and Kyoto 3 in the foreseeable future – in order to salvage what’s left of U.S. industry. And if that happens, we’ll only have ourselves to blame for not fighting EPA when we had the chance.