Emission Control

Emission Control

Emission Control

What the foreign papers are saying.
April 2 2001 9:30 PM

Emission Control

President Bush's public rejection of the 1997 Kyoto protocols on global warming last week sent much of the world's press into apoplexy. Writing in Britain's Sunday Telegraph, the always-mischievous Mark Steyn declared, "Even if the Kyoto accords didn't deserve dumping in and of themselves, it would have been worth doing just for the pleasure of watching Europe go bananas." Le Figaro of Paris headlined its coverage "Global Warming: Outcry Against Bush"; the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung noted that "climate policy … has emerged as the latest transatlantic bone of contention and is now stoking suspicions of unilateralism"; and Britain's Independent said that of all the conflicts between the Bush administration and the rest of the world, "nothing is as bad as this. It is not even isolationism, it is in-your-face truculence."

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The president rejected the Kyoto protocols on greenhouse-gas emissions because, he said, the United States is suffering from an energy crisis and implementing the accords would harm the U.S. economy. Most of Bush's critics attacked his prioritization of the U.S. national interests over international concerns. The Deccan Herald of India pointed out that while the United States represents just 4 percent of the world's population, it accounts for 25 percent of its greenhouse-gas emissions. "Washington, therefore, bears an extra responsibility towards combating global warming. … The US should act with responsibility and review a short-sighted decision which could well push the world towards ecological disaster." The Hong Kong i-Mail huffed, "By abandoning the agreement Mr Bush has signalled to the international community that the US does not have to stand by any international agreement it signs."

June Thomas June Thomas

June Thomas is managing producer of Slate podcasts.

Several papers blamed Bush's oil connections for the policy change. The Independent on Sunday said the "abrupt and arrogant announcement" was made "for the sake of pandering to a handful of right-wing ideologues and the dirty end of the oil industry." However, an op-ed in Saturday's Independent argued that there were no special interests behind the reversal. Rather, "He is acting out of conviction; he is simply behaving as the ideological conservative that he is, an unsophisticated Middle American conservative not well-versed in the diplomatic arts, but convinced that his heart is in the right place."

To be sure, Bush has his supporters. Pointing out that, despite the Clinton administration's supposed support for the Kyoto protocols greenhouse-gas emissions have increased since 1997 and the U.S. Senate refused to ratify it by a vote of 95-0, several papers praised President Bush for the openness of his actions. Writing in Britain's Sunday Times, Andrew Sullivan declared: "For eight years, we had a different kind of president—a man who told the world everything it wanted to hear. He didn't deliver, of course, but he played by the rules of multinational diplomacy. … The days of blather are over." Canada's National Post announced, "Though it is considered bad manners to admit as much, the greenhouse gas limitations prescribed in the Kyoto agreement are impossible for signatory nations to reach without politically impossible economic sacrifices. Mr. Bush did the industrialized world a favour by breaking a stale taboo."

The Globe and Mail of Toronto suggested that possibly "Washington's declaration that it has 'no interest' in implementing Kyoto is a bold negotiating ploy by the Bush administration, which is miffed at Europe's refusal to go along with U.S.-led proposals to ease the pain of emission reductions." The Japan Times proffered yet another conspiracy theory: Perhaps the Europeans intentionally drove the United States to breaking point so that Bush could serve as a scapegoat for the failure to implement the Kyoto accords. "The growing strength of the Green movement gives European governments very good reasons to take maximalist positions, confident that U.S. obstinacy will spare them the need to compromise. Thus far, that strategy has been validated."

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Mark Steyn had still another theory:

[I]f I understand this global-warming business correctly, the danger is that the waters will rise and drown the whole of Massachusetts, New York City, Long Island, the California coast and a few big cities on the Great Lakes—in other words, every Democratic enclave will be wiped out leaving only the solid Republican heartland. Politically speaking, for conservatives there's no downside to global warming.

Peaceful protests: The peaceful nature of Friday's 25th-anniversary Land Day demonstrations was roundly praised in the Israeli press. The Israeli-Arab community commemorates the 1976 deaths of six demonstrators against land expropriations every March 30; this year's protests were the first mass activity by the community since the start of the Al-Aqsa intifada last September. According to Ha'aretz, Israeli Arabs see their boycott of the February elections as "an important act of united, non-violent protest" and are now determined to "prove they can act together on other issues." An op-ed in the Jerusalem Post credited the internal security minister, rather than the Israeli-Arab community, for Friday's "relative peace." It said, "By firmly insisting on a policy of zero-tolerance for violence, [the minister] rightly made clear that any type of provocative shenanigans would not be permitted." The op-ed attacked marchers who waved Syrian flags, days after the Syrian president said Israel's actions were worse than those of the Nazis. It concluded:

If Israeli society is ever to succeed in building bridges between its Jewish majority and Arab minority, it will come about only through greater mutual understanding and tolerance. Chanting slogans in favor of those who seek the Jewish state's demise only undermines such efforts. If the leadership of the Israeli Arab community truly wishes to mend the divisions in Israeli society, they can start by casting out the extremists in their midst.

Euro April fool? Such is the virulence of the Telegraph's hatred of the European Union that many readers may still be wondering about the veracity of a piece in Sunday's paper—despite the presence of a quote from Finnish bureaucrat Larip Loof. The story claimed that a new European law will require celebrity impressionists to pay royalties to the people they imitate, thus threatening "end-of-pier shows, where journeymen comedians still make careers out of impersonating Norman Wisdom, Mick Jagger and Boy George." On Monday, the Daily Telegraph reported that the April 1 edition of the Iraqi newspaper Babel announced a generous increase in the country's meat and chicken rations and told students they would all be given pass grades in the end-of-term exams. "It was only on the last page of the newspaper that an insert warned readers not to be fooled."