House Foreign Affairs Committee

Asia, the Pacific, and the Global Environment Subcommittee

The Kyoto Protocol: An Update

2172 Rayburn
Wed, 11 Jul 2007 18:00:00 GMT

Panel I
  • Harlan Watson – special representative and senior climate negotiator, Bureau of Oceans and International Environment and Scientific Affairs, State Department Panel II
  • Elliot Diringer – director of international strategies, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
  • Margo Thorning – managing director, International Council for Capital Formation

Dr. Watson and the subcommittee chair Faleomavaega had a long discussion. Dr. Watson defended the administration’s largely voluntary approach. Rohrabacher repeated his complaints that CO2 is not dangerous to human health and that the focus on climate change is taking resources away from fighting pollution.

4:24 PM Diringer The US-CAP platform. The Bali conference will be the stage for new negotiations on 2012 commitments. Kyoto was a major milestone, but just one stage. We have no expectation the US will ever ratify it.

4:34 PM Thorning Cap and trade is bad.

4:41 PM Manzullo R-IL We’re seeing the problems with cap and trade already. One of the manufacturers in Spain is being displaced by a factory in Morocco which is not covered by the system. People not covered by it would be the beneficiaries.

Diringer The type of effect doesn’t seem to be a function of cap-and-trade, but is related to any regulatory control. That’s what the importance of international agreements.

Manzullo How do you make the effort?

Diringer You start by being serious.

Manzullo We’re down to 3% in the export of machine tools. Setting the right example. I don’t think that works.

Manzullo The nations that buy things go with a more reliable supplier. It’s ITAR free. Using the white-hat techniques slams in our face.

Thorning Global energy prices are not likely to fall in the foreseeable future.

Manzullo What can you offer China and Morocco, countries that don’t respect the environment?

Thorning Let’s say we have a coal-fired boiler that 35% efficient. If China wants that, if we knew they’d protect our intellectual property, we’d be more likely to sell them the boiler.

Diringer We have various means of export support and promotion and we can make that assistance conditional.

4:48 PM Rohrabacher The air in China is murdering children. That has nothing to do with climate change. If all of the goals of the Kyoto Protocol are met, would that reverse the climate change trend that are so alarming people?

Thorning It would have virtually no impact on changing the climate.

Diringer Noone contends the Kyoto standards are sufficient.

Rohrabacher Why should we join the Kyoto protocol then?

Diringer I’m not aware of anyone advocating joining the Kyoto protocol. China’s implementing many environmental standards that have climate emissions benefits, but are based on national drivers. It’s important that we understand those motivations. The steps we would take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will also reduce the production of conventional air pollutants. There is common ground.

Rohrabacher I think there is room for common ground. There are choices that people make as to whether or not there will be reductions in NOX, which I understand is harmful to human health. Some scientists claim more CO2 will produce more plant growth and make people’s lives better. I would like to put on the record an article by James Taylor at the Heartlands Institute.

What is your view on using nuclear energy?

D: Nuclear energy is a major component of our electricity production. We expect it to remain a major part of our production mix.

Rohrabacher Might I suggest that you personally look at the high-pressure gas reactor? The traditional objections of environmentalists don’t apply. It actually eats plutonium. The last thing we want to do is to promote technologies to clean the air but help people drop bombs on us. There are some alternatives.

4:57 Faleomavaega What about poor countries?

Thorning Energy is an essential to reducing poverty. I think it’s important how we balance society’s resources. I want to see more resources going to provide energy that developing countries need. For about $18 billion a year we could provide LPG stoves to millions of people.

Our tax code has slowed depreciation. We have about the highest corporate tax rate in the industrialized world. I hope we’ll look at the rate of capital cost recovery.

5:04 Diringer The UN convention establishes the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. There’s an understanding that one size does not fit all. We would favor a flexible framework.

I think the US is the single most influential force globally on tackling this issue. The EU has pledged unilaterally to reduce emissions. A very positive indication from the United States is necessary.

Thorning One of the things we need to keep our eye on is that the EU is not likely to meet their targets. What I see happening is lip service. I see the EU as not successful as it’s currently set up. Perhaps sectoral targets without necessarily having mandatory requirements. I think we can induce China, like the Marshall Plan.

5:09 Diringer I think it’s premature to conclude that the EU will not meet its Kyoto target. The EEA estimates it will achieve its targets. It won’t meet it entirely with domestic reductions, but also by relying on the flexibility mechanisms built into the Kyoto Protocol. The emissions trading scheme is only one of the mechanisms the EU is using, and it is in the learning phase. The biggest problem in the trial run was an over-allocation of emissions allowances.

5:13 Faleomavaega What do you expect will happen at Bali?

Thorning I think the US will push the Asia-Pacific Partnership mechanisms, which I think is the right way to go.

5:16 Rohrabacher Scripps has a beautiful climate change institute worth millions of dollars. Scientists on the dole. When that money should have been on the children of China who are going to have emphysema by the time they’re 30 years old by breathing in that rotten air. It’s like a huge black hole. If scientists say there will be more wildfires in California, that’s probably a $2 million research grant sucked away. I know people in California if they got those $2 million would dramatically impact air quality. There are 100s, thousands of these scientists taking this money. People say “Well, the issue is closed” swaying and wagging his arms. They’re ignoring the critics the scientists. $37 billion is a huge amount of money. It seems that the poltics of this thing has invaded the scientific community. With that said, I am hopeful. I do believe in science. I do believe in human progress. Perhaps we can come up with technologies that can clean the air, even though I think the scare tactics are not justified.