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Obama's Environmental Agenda: Made in China By: William R. Hawkins
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, January 16, 2009


Carol Browner, who headed the Environmental Protection Agency under President Bill Clinton, has been named by Barack Obama to be his Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change. This new and undefined office could give her broad influence over economic policy. That is a frightening prospect, not merely because of her participation in a group with overtly socialist ties, but because of the way hostile foreign powers such as China are manipulating the modern Green movement to serve their own national purposes.

Between her two tours of duty in Washington, Browner served on the Commission for a Sustainable World Society, which is part of the Socialist International. The Socialist International works closely with the United Nations, and the Commission hopes to influence the UN Climate Change Convention that will meet in Copenhagen in December to draw up a new treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol. Until then, the Commission is holding a series of conferences on “global solidarity.” By this, it means re-orienting policy towards helping the developing world at the expense of the Western nations, which the Green movement deems over-developed. Cristina Narbona, Spanish Ambassador to the OECD and former Minister of the Environment, said at the Commission’s September meeting in Stockholm, socialists are “offering a different discourse, shifting the current economic paradigm towards one based on greater equity.”

In other words, the Commission proposes a global transfer of wealth from the West to the rest.  

The XXIII Congress of the Socialist International, held in Athens, Greece last summer, set out the way this transfer is to be accomplished:
The International believes that the global agenda for responding to climate change must be linked to greater efforts to reduce poverty; must include stepped up efforts to cancel the debt of poorer countries and to reduce trade barriers to provide developing countries with better market access; and must ensure that economic development is not only greener but also more just and sustainable.

A critical task is to secure the financing and investment necessary – through the creation of a new international financial framework – to promote low carbon and sustainable economic growth, particularly in developing nations, and to support efficient technological advances that address global warming as well as the transfer of needed technologies to the developing world.

Transferring industrial capacity is another way of describing redistribution of the world's wealth, and the agenda ranks high among the goals of the International.

According to Luis Ayala, Secretary General of the Socialist International, “the matter of technology transfers and capacity building is an issue which was high on the agenda in the Commission's discussions.” At the Stockholm conference, he said “went to the core of the contribution of social democrats to the process, going to the very heart of North-South relations.” Mohammed Elyazghi, Minister of State of Morocco, told the March 2008 Commission meeting in Chile, “Access to new technologies should be universal, when instead they were being sold to unindustrialised nations at a premium.” Commission member Sergei Mironov has proposed the creation of an institution dedicated to assisting in the accumulation, distribution, and transfer of clean technologies. Coincidentally, his Russian Federation’s backward industrial sector would be in line to accept such transfers.

The proclamations of this group may sound like the rants of woolly headed academics left over from the 1960s, but Browner sat among major political figures from the around the world. The co-chairs of the Commission are Ricardo Lagos, former President of Chile (2000-2006) and a Special Envoy for the United Nations Secretary-General on Climate Change; and Goran Persson, former Prime Minister of Sweden (1996-2006) and chair of its Social Democratic Party. Other members include:

* Aleksandr Kwasniewski, former President of Poland (1995-2005);

* Beatriz Paredes, President of the Institutional Revolutionary Party of Mexico; 

* Anand Sharma, Minister of State for External Affairs of India; 

* Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Minister of Foreign Affairs of South Africa; and 

* Sergei Mironov, Chair of the Council of the Russian Federation.

Current or past ministers of the environment from Germany, Spain, Brazil, and the United Kingdom are also on the Commission.

With this international socialist orientation, it is little surprise its agenda benefits the world's largest socialist nation: China.

The Bush administration has been adamant that the major developing economies join any international environmental effort, since a campaign to slow economic growth that only affects some countries will work to the competitive advantage of others. The United States has refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol because it does not require any action by developing countries like China. Beijing signed the Kyoto Protocol precisely because it entailed no action on its part.

If it has its way, China will continue to be held to a different standard under any international environmental agreement. Zhijuan Zhang, the Vice-Minister of China who spoke at the Commission’s March 23 meeting, said while the alleviation of poverty remains daunting, Beijing is “committed to upholding the principle of shared and differentiated responsibilities with regard to climate change.” That means not holding China accountable for its pollution of the environment. Zhang’s language is standard Chinese phraseology, but has also been adopted by the Commission, which repeats the rhetoric whole cloth. The final G-8 statement from its July summit in Tokyo on climate change also held countries to different standards using the phrase “differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.”

Differentiated responsibilities have led to an environmental crisis in China. According to the World Health Organization, China has 16 of the world’s most polluted cities. The WHO’s Michal Krzyzanowski has stated, “All of the cities are pretty highly polluted by European standards, but even by the standards of Asia, Chinese cities are pretty highly polluted.” The way the Commission sees to help China (and other developing countries) to continue to grow, without having to divert resources to pollution control, is for the West simply to give away the “clean” technology they have invested their money to create.

Even with this large loophole, developing countries objected to the G-8 goal of halving world carbon emissions by 2050. China, India, Brazil, Mexico, and South Africa (known as the Group of 5) issued a statement declaring their split with the G-8 (United States, Japan, Russia, Canada, Italy, Germany, France, and United Kingdom). They rejected the notion that all should share in the 50-percent target, asserting that the wealthier countries have created most of the alleged environmental damage. “It is essential that developed countries take the lead in achieving ambitious and absolute greenhouse gas emissions reductions,” said the statement.

Chinese President Hu Jintao went further in separate remarks, saying “China's central task now is to develop the economy and make life better for the people,” adding that, “China's per capita emission is relatively low.” This last statement is true only because as rapid as Chinese growth has been, it has not yet reached even half of its 1.3 billion people. According to the OECD, China’s carbon dioxide emissions per unit of output are five times greater than America’s. And Beijing has just launched a $450 billion domestic stimulus package, with special provisions to aid its emerging auto industry and world’s largest steel industry.

And they have their eyes set on much more development under the rubric of differentiated responsibilities. China released a climate change plan in June 2007, which identified such priority areas as advanced coal technologies, energy efficient buildings, clean vehicles, and advanced industrial technologies. The 1st National Climate Change Strategy stressed that the country's top priority remains “sustainable development and poverty eradication.” Ma Kai, chairman of China's National Development and Reform Commission told the international press at the time, “The international community should respect the developing countries' right to develop.” India, Brazil and the other rising countries feel the same way, as they should.

The International’s approach would undermine a key component of Barack Obama’s economic program. Obama campaigned on a plan to invest $150 billion over the next decade to create renewable energy sources and “green” technologies that he insisted would generate five million good paying jobs that “can't be outsourced.” If the United States could build a comparative advantage in “green” industries, it could expand exports to help reduce our current trade deficit, which has been hovering around $700 billion annually. But these hopes would be dashed if America is pressured into giving this technology away or allowing it to be stolen by a concerted global effort to redistribute the world’s wealth – and in the process undermine intellectual property rights, a pillar of the capitalist system China has systematically violated. 

Will the Obama administration fall for this international transfer of wealth agenda? It has been embraced by his Assistant for Energy and Climate Change, Carol Browner. If President Obama signs a UN proposal that still contains the “common but differentiated responsibilities” language, he will not be changing the climate of the world; he will be changing the balance of power in the world, in ways directly harmful to American prosperity and security.


William Hawkins is a consultant on international economics and national security issues.


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