The Global Community

While the United States has refrained from adhering to the principles of the Kyoto Protocol, other members of the global community have made efforts, some substantial, some nominal regarding the commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Among the 168 countries that have ratified the Kyoto Protocol are seven of the world's wealthiest and industrialized countries including Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United Kingdom. In contrast, along with the United States, Australia, Croatia and Kazakhstan have failed to ratify the Kyoto agreement.

According to two observers of the global warming issue, ''The [U.S.} president's 'greenless' diplomacy, challenged at home, has provoked an international response as well. Efforts to persuade the [Bush] administration and Americans to change course have been undertaken by such loyal allies as British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who began drawing up a climate change treaty at the end of 2004 that he hoped even the United States could support'' (Daynes and Sussman 2005:442). Despite Blair's efforts at the meeting of the G-8 summit in July 2005, the United States, in essence, backed off any formal commitment to take substantive actions with regard to greenhouse gas emissions. As The Observer reported, ''it was a contrast between the British approach, demanding 'immediate placing of controls on transport, factories and power suppliers,' and the 'more leisurely' American approach, asking countries to 'put faith in technology' - even in technology 'as yet undeveloped' - that could help reduce global warming by the year 2025'' (Daynes and Sussman 2005:442).

Although a sufficient number of countries have ratified the Kyoto Protocol to put it into effect, problems remain. President George W. Bush continues to oppose the international agreement and the U.S. Senate through the Byrd-Hagel Resolution passed 95-0 in July 1997 requires developing countries to make formal commitments regarding targets to reduce greenhouse gases. Moreover, as Jeff Frankel (1999) of The Brookings Institution explained in 1999, from the ''viewpoint from the north,'' it is essential for developing countries to offer meaningful participation because a) ''a global problem requires a global solution,'' b) ''Emissions in developing countries are increasing the most rapidly, and will pass those from the industrialized countries early in the next century,'' c) "if developing countries do not participate in the international regime, their emissions might rise by even more than anticipated under a continuation of global business as usual,'' and d) developing country participation is crucial because it would permit relatively low-cost reductions in emissions in place of high-cost reductions in the industrialized countries.'' Having said this, developing countries also maintain a position that centers on economic development and improving the standard of living of their citizens. Moreover, as Frankel (1999) informs us, developing countries argue that "their priority must be raising their own economic standards of living. To do so, they must raise incomes as reflected in market transactions, while also controlling local air and water pollution. . . . Controlling local pollution must take precedence over controlling greenhouse gases, which are not visible, and which may not have serious health effects until a century into the future'' and second, "the developing countries should not be required to take any step that entails economic sacrifice until the industrialized countries have done so. The industrialized countries created the problem; and they are richer and can more readily afford to make sacrifices'' (Frankel 1999).

The wealthy United States and member states of the European Union have played leadership roles regarding two important global issues. As Miranda Schreurs (2004:222) points out, "The U.S. was considered an international leader in the development of the 1987 Montreal Protocol addressing stratospheric ozone depletion caused by the release of chlorofluorocarbons and other manmade substances. In contrast, it has been the EU that has been the champion of the Kyoto Protocol and international efforts to address climate change.'' Over a decade ago prior to the establishment of the Kyoto Protocol, James Sebenius (1995:73) of the Harvard Business School warned that the "power of the coalitions that will arise to block greenhouse action - not merely for reasons of economic interest, but also for reasons of science, ideology, or opportunism - must be taken into account in the design of an effective negotiating process.'' Yet a decade later, when Russia ratified the Kyoto Protocol, the international environmental agreement went into effect demonstrating that countries were formally committed to the Kyoto Protocol. At the same time, the reluctance of the United States to join its wealthy partners and the increasing contribution of greenhouse gases by China, India and other developing countries poses a continued dilemma for addressing global warming and climate change. As John Dutton (1994:101-102) reminds us, "governments must . . . provide informed leadership,'' "governments must seek international cooperation to address global problems,'' and "governments must act as catalysts of change.''

In 2007, the Bush administration responded in two ways that, once again, demonstrated its commitment to oppose mandatory goals and timetables and continue support for voluntary guidelines. In preparation for the Group of Eight meeting scheduled in Germany in June, Bush announced that he would offer a "new global framework'' that would show the U.S. willingness to deal with global warming. Heading into the last year of his administration, the American president wanted the international community to see an active U.S. role in shaping global environmental policy. However, as reported in the Washington Post, the administration continues to oppose binding targets and instead puts forth "aspirational goals'' to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (Fletcher and Eilperin 2007). Moreover, the Bush announcement would have a negative effect on the U.N.-sponsored global warming conference scheduled for December in Bali that had the goal of preparing a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. In the words of the British newspaper, The Guardian, the purpose of the Bali conference was "thrown in doubt by the initiative announced yesterday by President Bush'' since the American president set forth a position that "killed off hopes of an agreement on basic principles for combating climate change at the G8 meeting'' (Borger, Adam, Goldenberg 2007). Adding to the difficulties for the G8 and Bali conferences was a public position taken by Michael Griffin who heads NASA, the U.S. space agency. In a radio interview in the summer of 2007, while accepting the proposition that a "trend of global warming exists'' he asserted that "I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with'' (Borger, Adam, Goldenberg 2007).

In December, the U.N.-sponsored global warming conference in Bali convened to put forth a post-Kyoto Protocol mechanism to address greenhouse gas emissions. Prior to the meeting itself, internal dissension arose in the White House over who should represent the U.S. at the conference. While President Bush wanted his environmental advisor, James Connaughton, to co-head the U.S. delegation, the U.S. Department of State argued that this would be a "breach of protocol'' (Baker 2008:11). Although Undersecretary of State Paula Dobrinasky was eventually sent to lead the U.S. delegation, the U. S. position remained the same - namely, opposing explicit emission targets - while delegates from other countries criticized the United States and put forth a proposal that developed and developing countries "make measurable but unspecified cuts in greenhouse gases'' (Baker 2008:11). In short, without U.S. leadership, problems rather than opportunities and unilateralism rather than collaboration remained the theme and approach of the U.S. role regarding global warming and climate change.

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