Why it's easy being green (in Europe)

Posted: Jul 30, 2001 12:00 AM
A man comes home and finds his wife in bed with another man. He runs to the dresser, pulls a gun from the top drawer and puts it to his head. The wife starts laughing. "Don't laugh," the man warns. "You're next." Make the gun a toy pistol and the husband becomes the perfect metaphor for those Europeans who have been threatening to ratify the Kyoto global warming pact without the United States -- the toy gun is the part of the agreement they worked out in Bonn this week. Because the United States did not sign on, journalists dutifully reported that the United States was "isolated" from the other countries. Bully for President Bush. His response to the Euros rightfully has been: Go ahead, make my day. Rather than pull the trigger, the Kyoto treaty-huggers came up with a new ploy. The Japanese insisted -- and Dutch enviro minister Jan Pronk agreed -- on removing language that would make the pact legally binding. In plain English, that means that there's no penalty for breaking the treaty. (Yet, the not-legally-binding part wasn't mentioned until paragraph 19 of a 20 paragraph Washington Post story.) That's right. The Bonn negotiators yanked the teeth from the treaty, then patted themselves on the back for being brave and noble fellows. Then, they bashed Bush for not having the fortitude to adopt their worthless pact. O' brave new world that has such people in't. Of course, Kyoto boosters didn't act as if they had defanged their beast. They boasted that this newly negotiated agreement included a strong new penalty: For every ton that treaty countries fall short of their 2012 goals, they would have to reduce their pollution by 1.3 tons in 2013. Oooooooh. Except: What if countries fail to meet their 2013 goals? "Um. That's it," said Michael Williams, spokesman for the Bonn swells. "This is an international treaty. And environmental treaties don't normally have severe penalties." He left out that, before Bonn, the plan had been to use "legally binding" language and fine the socks off the many affluent countries that weren't going to meet their goals, and aren't likely to come close. A Bush official estimated that to satisfy Kyoto's demands, Americans would have to reduce their driving by 20 percent, improve electric plant efficiency by that amount (despite natural gas shortages and rising demand), and cut home and business energy use by 20 percent. The United States, Canada and Japan are far from achieving the Kyoto reduction goals. Now, Japan can miss its goals -- while maintaining the fiction that it supports the treaty. (If the United States killed the legally binding clause, figure that The Washington Post would not run a headline announcing that a U.S.-Euro deal "saves" the treaty.) "They come out of the room all hugging," said Frank Maisano of the anti-Kyoto Global Climate Coalition of the elimination of legal bonds, "and something like this pops up and nobody knows what it means." Thus, the Independent of London called the 1.3 ton standard "tough" and warned that countries that don't meet their goals "will be banned from emissions trading." (Hello, London. They won't need to trade pollution credits if they don't go the legally binding route.) Add: When will the Brits or a second European country ratify Kyoto, instead of blaming Bush for not embracing it? Romania is the only country in Europe to ratify Kyoto. Romania is isolated.