Democratic News

News that the Russian government last week took a big step toward approving the Kyoto Protocol on global warming means that the long-delayed treaty is likely to soon come into force around the world. Russia has held the key to the treaty’s success ever since the U.S. walked from climate talks in 2001. Moscow’s decision is the latest notice that a majority of countries are addressing problems caused by global warming -- and doing so without U.S. input. The fact that the Kyoto Protocol may soon be implemented is a sign that the rest of the world is moving toward a marketplace for more efficient and cleaner ways to produce and use energy. But because the U.S. has isolated itself from this international dialogue, our country will have a limited role in setting the terms for the development of that marketplace. Sen. Bingaman hopes that the news from Moscow will drive home the need to start having a real debate on climate policy in the U.S., and the need to start talking about even modest steps to address this issue. Here is what Bingaman said today on the Senate floor: Bingaman on Russia, Kyoto Protocol "Mr. President, last week the Russian Federation began the process of ratifying the Kyoto Protocol on global warming. Russia’s ratification is the crucial step that will bring the Kyoto Protocol into force as an international agreement. "In the initial stages of the Kyoto negotiations, the United States Senate made clear that we would not be willing to sign any agreement on global warming that did not include scheduled commitments for the developing world in addition to our own commitments. This was not a refusal to participate in the Kyoto negotiations, but a guide for what would be acceptable if we were to actually enter into a treaty. The Bush Administration misrepresented that guide and decided to completely walk away from international negotiations altogether. "Now it looks as though a majority of the world will begin to move forward on the issue of global climate change, and without U.S. participation. President Bush’s decision was a profound and strategic mistake for our country. The Protocol is moving forward now and the United States has very little to say in its direction. "The Administration has compounded the error of dropping out of the world climate discussion by failing to come up with a viable climate change policy of its own. Relying solely on voluntary measures as the basis for our climate strategy has proven to be ineffective in slowing the growth of our own greenhouse gas emissions. These voluntary actions have been in place since the previous Bush Administration -- the administration of George Herbert Walker Bush -- and now they have been repackaged by the current Bush Administration. The current Administration and the Republican leadership in the House have been so stalwart on this issue that they have opposed efforts in the Senate to develop even modest measures on climate protection, such as a national registry on greenhouse gas emissions and a national strategy on climate change. "Mr. President, the science of climate change is clear, and the potential losses to our economy from climate-related disruptions, such as the increased frequency of hurricanes and other severe storms, are starkly apparent. We are putting our own economic security and our competitive edge at risk every day that we delay in addressing this issue. The fact that the Kyoto Protocol will officially enter into force is a signal that the rest of the world is headed toward a marketplace for more efficient and cleaner ways to produce and use energy. But because we in the United States have absented ourselves from the international discussions, we will have a limited role in setting the terms for the development of that marketplace. "The cost to our economic competitiveness could be substantial. A 1999 report by the President’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology shows that between now and 2050, investments in new energy technologies in developing nations will likely be between $15 and $20 trillion dollars, accounting for more than half of the global investments in energy supply. Let me restate that – between $15 and $20 trillion dollars. Ninety percent of the markets for coal and nuclear and renewable energy technologies that are expected to be developed will be from outside the United States. And the question arises, ‘Who will supply these technologies?’ "Given the right incentives, the United States has the technical capability and the human resources to lead us into this new era. A recent edition of Business Week demonstrated that a large number of U.S. companies, maybe even a majority, are ready to move forward. These companies want to take climate change seriously because they’re fearful of losing a huge part of the growing market for clean energy technology. Clean energy technology is the future cornerstone of a world market and we should be vying to capture that market. Instead, we are on a track for a future where we will be buying the technology from overseas, rather than selling the technology to others. "In contrast to our weak policy on climate change, the Europeans and the Japanese have already made serious commitments to reducing emissions, with or without Kyoto. They are poised to corner the market in the developing world while our discussions on climate are being held hostage by those who would like to avoid an honest discussion of the issue. The longer we play politics, the wider this gap will grow as the Europeans, Japanese and others develop more efficient vehicles and cleaner and superior ways to produce energy. "Mr. President, I recently visited China. The Chinese are developing at a rapid pace, and an impression I had from that visit is the amount of coal-fired power plants that are scheduled to be built in that country over the next two decades. This development illustrates why it is important to engage the developing world in climate negotiations. But by walking away from the table over three years ago, the Administration did not improve its ability to cause that engagement to occur. Our misguided refusal to engage in the issue lets everyone else off the hook. "The news of Russia’s willingness to go forward on the Kyoto Protocol should be a wake-up call to the Administration. We should seize it as an opportunity for the United States to start showing leadership on the issue. Only then can we credibly engage China and the developing world. One way of taking that leadership is for the United States to propel itself forward in the development of cleaner and more efficient technology. If we do not and if Kyoto goes into force, the United States will run the risk of falling behind in participating in important new markets for energy technology. There are flexibility mechanisms within the Kyoto structure that would allow the United States to participate in a global regime, but we need to take our own first steps. "Two credible first steps would be first, for us to strengthen our own capabilities for energy technology R&D, and second, for us to develop a robust and verified national registry for greenhouse gas emissions. With respect to the registry, if the United States is to develop a strategy for helping to achieve a stable climate in the future, knowing where our emissions are coming from is a necessary first step. The Senate has gone on record in favor of such a registry in both the last Congress and this, as part of energy legislation. With time so short in this Congress, frankly I am not optimistic that we will be able to revisit this issue again. But I hope that the developments in Russia will drive home the need to start having a real debate on a pro-active climate policy. We need to start taking even modest steps to address this extremely important issue.” # # #