Foreign Policy Blogs

Meetings and Treaties

In December of this year, formal negotiations will begin on a successor to the Kyoto Protocols which expire in 2012.  Right now in Vienna, parties are meeting to help prepare for what should be Homeric efforts over the course of the next two or three years.  See this from Reuters and for much more comprehensive coverage, including webcasts, go to the website of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).  According to the conference press release, "one thousand representatives from more than 150 governments, business and industry, environmental organizations and research institutions" are gathered in Vienna. 

If you are at all a little new to the subject of climate change, then the UNFCCC website is an excellent place to get essential background.  Also, just launched this month, there's a new gateway "that highlights the wide-ranging work of the various parts of the United Nations system on climate change."

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will be holding high-level talks on climate change at the UN in New York in late September.  (I hope to be there to bring you a little first-hand look at things.)  President Bush has also invited representatives from around the world to talks right after the New York meetings.  See this from the White House and this from Reuters, courtesy of "Scientific American."

Of course, so much of what happens in all of this will depend on who the next American president will be.  (See my post on this, Presidential Candidates, from April.)  In Congress, climate change legislation will be advanced this coming fall, but it is unlikely, in my opinion, that anything particularly useful for the long term will be put forward.  If it is, it will likely be vetoed.  At two different carbon finance conferences I attended this spring, nearly all the worthies polled said we were going to see national GHG reduction legislation but it would not be enacted until 2009.

The near-term story is going to be the shape of the energy legislation that has been passed out of both houses of Congress but needs to be reconciled in conference this fall and then needs to be passed into law.  Will Bush veto anything that rescinds multibillion dollar tax breaks for the oil and gas industry?  Will the draft legislation that comes out of the conference have significantly improved CAFE standards for motor vehicles and a renewable portfolio standard.  (I wrote extensively on this earlier in the summer.  See these posts for background.)

Meanwhile, there was a terrific op-ed in the "Financial Times" last week from Dr. Mario Molina, one of the Nobelists whose work on stratospheric ozone depletion was critical not only to reducing the terrifying specter of our destroying the vital protection of the ozone layer but, it turns out, to greatly delaying the worst effects of global warming.  (I wrote about "The importance of the Montreal Protocol in protecting climate" in March.)  Dr. Molina writes:  "The ozone treaty has already done more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions than the Kyoto protocol is expected to do in its initial commitment period, from 2008 to 2012. In the process, the Montreal protocol has delayed warming by up to 12 years. This delay may have kept the world from passing the "tipping point' for abrupt and irreversible climate change – a point that some of my colleagues calculate could be 10 years away."  There's more work that can be done, namely phasing out all use of the HCFCs that were meant to be a transitional chemical after the CFCs were eliminated.  For more on this critical subject and on the Montreal Protocols that have done so much, go to the Ozone Secretariat's website. 



Bill Hewitt

Bill Hewitt has been an environmental activist and professional for nearly 25 years. He was deeply involved in the battle to curtail acid rain, and was also a Sierra Club leader in New York City. He spent 11 years in public affairs for the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, and worked on environmental issues for two NYC mayoral campaigns and a presidential campaign. He is a writer and editor and is the principal of Hewitt Communications. He has an M.S. in international affairs, has taught political science at Pace University, and has graduate and continuing education classes on climate change, sustainability, and energy and the environment at The Center for Global Affairs at NYU. His book, "A Newer World - Politics, Money, Technology, and What’s Really Being Done to Solve the Climate Crisis," will be out from the University Press of New England in December.

Areas of Focus:
the policy, politics, science and economics of environmental protection, sustainability, energy and climate change