US President George W Bush’s assurance that Washington’s plans for fighting climate change would not “undermine UN efforts” has to be taken with a barrel of salt. The new plan, announced last Wednesday, aims at rounding up the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and, in 18 months, commit them to national programmes for slowing emissions. The US administration may think it has come up with a great idea, but in reality it looks like a piecemeal strategy that tries to curb GHG emissions from the bottom up, while the need of the hour is obviously a top-down approach that actually caps emissions.
Clearly, the world could well have done without this latest Bush brainwave as it would probably undercut future talks aimed at new, binding restrictions. But then this is not very surprising either, considering the fact that the Bush administration even refused to acknowledge climate change for six years, insisting that the costs of change were too high to justify more than notional steps to cut GHG emissions. In fact, American representatives at climate talks, as recently as last month, had flatly rejected any new negotiations under international climate treaties like Kyoto. As the world’s largest economy, the US is not only the one most dependent on fossil fuels like oil and gas, but also the one that wastes most of both. And it is this dependency that forces the US to become involved in the military and political affairs of countries like Iraq.
So, Washington would perhaps have been better able to sell this plan to a sceptical world if Mr Bush had desisted from saluting “UN efforts”. For it is ludicrous coming from someone who has violated international law and the UN Charter on almost every issue — be it the International Criminal Court, Kyoto or Iraq. And now Mr Bush appears keen on opening a new anti-missile umbrella over Europe, effectively scrapping the few disarmament treaties of the last decades that are still around, fuelling a new cold war with a resurgent Russia.