While I was camping over the weekend I missed the release by Greenpeace of a leaked U.S. memo to Germany regarding the G8 text on climate change.
In past years, when I’ve returned from meetings of the U.N. Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) or the Conference of Parties (COP) to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, I have done my best to explain how out of step with its allies the U.S. is on climate change and the great lengths U.S. negotiators will go to obstruct international progress on the issue. To my great frustration, I usually feel unable to capture it.
The leaked memo shows illustrates precisely how the U.S. approaches these meetings.
But the G8 is different than the CSD and the COP, for one simple reason: people notice the G8. The G8 guarantees at least two and as many as four days of front-page news coverage. Being isolated diplomatically at the CSD or the COP can go under the radar screen, but not at the G8 Summit.
Angela Merkel and Co. will be under great pressure to cave in to U.S. objections and approve a weak document that the U.S. can agree to. She shouldn’t.
That’s what Tony Blair did during his presidency of the G8 in 2005, which was focused on poverty and climate change. Blair thought that after his loyalty and message discipline on Iraq that he could exact concessions from President Bush on other issues.
But Bush didn’t give an inch. Blair wanted the Gleneagles Summit to be the moment where he reclaimed his status as an equal in the so-called “special relationship.” Instead, Gleneagles serves to highlight Blair’s seeming acceptance of a lesser role for his country compared to the United States.
There’s a lesson to draw from Blair’s experience, and Merkel should see it clearly: the Bush Administration does not reward its friends for compromise.
If the U.S. insists on staking out a position that so clearly opposes sound science and the views of its G8 colleagues, Merkel should keep the document strong and force the U.S. to dissociate from the G8 position.
There’s nothing to be gained from compromise here, and given the spotlight that will be on the G8 Summit, there is much to be gained from exposing the Bush administration’s intransigence.
— Scott Paul