The climate treaty negotiations inside Copenhagen’s Bella Center at the United Nations Climate Change Conference ground to a halt yesterday when the G-77, the largest group of developing nations, walked out. These poorer nations demanded that richer nations sign a treaty that includes a large transfer of wealth to the developing world to compensate for the developed world’s historical contribution to global warming. The G-77 countries ended their walkout after less than two hours, perhaps because global warming has had no apparent impact on December Copenhagen temperatures.
Stuck out in the cold trying to get into the convention center that the developing countries had left were thousands of registered participants including delegations from universities, trade unions, and the press. It took more than 8 hours for non-governmental delegates, like Heritage’s Steven Groves and Ben Lieberman, to check in on December 14th. The New York Times described the registration system as chaotic, and notes that the overflow of freezing unregistered delegates forced the Copenhagen police to shut down the subway stop nearest the conference. The problem: despite some two years of planning, the United Nations organizers failed to come up with a way to fit the 45,000 people they registered for the conference into the 15,000 person capacity Bella Center. Oops.
This entire circus would be funnier if not for what is at stake: trillions of dollars in regulatory actions and billions of dollars in aid to developing nations. And, if there were to be some miracle and nations in attendance did sign an agreement, who would be in charge of monitoring all these agreed-to carbon reductions and oversight of all that development aid? The same entity that can’t even figure out that 45,000 people won't into a 15,000 person building; the United Nations. Heritage fellow Ben Lieberman explains:
Compliance with such a treaty would require massive changes to the U.S. economy, and U.N. bodies would decide many of the details of those changes. For example, one way to comply with Kyoto or subsequent treaties is to purchase so-called offsets to carbon dioxide emissions. Offsets allow regulated entities to pay others to undertake projects that presumably reduce emissions globally, such as paying landowners to plant trees or bankrolling the installation of solar panels in poor countries. In many cases, companies find offsets cheaper than actually reducing their own emissions. However, these projects have been subject to fraud. For example, some offset projects have not actually reduced emissions, while others involved industrial facilities with unnecessarily high initial emissions for the purpose of profiting by lowering them later. Currently, the Clean Development Mechanism under the U.N. decides which offset projects are acceptable. Thus, unelected international bureaucracies would control this critical aspect of a climate treaty, which would have significant implications for the U.S. economy.
The costs of all this regulatory compliance would be huge. A Heritage Foundation analysis of the Waxman-Markey energy legislation found that for a household of four, energy costs (electric, natural gas, gasoline expenses) would rise by $436 in 2012 and by $1,241 by 2035, averaging $829 over that period. Higher energy costs would increase the cost of many other products and services. Overall, Waxman-Markey would reduce gross domestic product by $393 billion annually and by a total of $9.4 trillion by 2035.
A new poll by Gallup/USA Today finds that when given no specifics, Americans generally support a climate treaty 55%-38%. But once you start informing Americans about the trade offs involved with such a deal, support plummets. 46% of Americans say they worry more that the United States will take actions against global warming that cripple the U.S. economy. Furthermore, by a 7 to 1 margin Americans say the Obama administration should put a higher priority on improving the economy than reducing on global warming.