Chapter 11 of “The Carbon War”, by Jeremy Leggett (Penguin 2000)
Kyoto, Japan: November – December 1997
In the wooded hills fringing the ancient city, autumn was lingering to welcome the thousands attending the Kyoto Climate Summit. Temples centuries old vied for wintry sunlight in the roofscape as I looked across the city from my hotel to the wooded ridges. You could see at a glance why the Japanese regard Kyoto as such a special place. I made a wish that it would become an even more special place. That within the next ten days the rusty hues unseasonably splashing the hills would become an emblem for the beginning of another autumn – that of oil and coal.
For the carbon club, as for the environmentalists, this was a defining battle. If the carbon club won here, they stood to knock the whole process off the rails. If they lost, and a Protocol – any Protocol – with legally binding cuts was negotiated, they would probably always be on the defensive hereafter: defending one trench after another as they were pushed further and further back. Almost all the central players from the pre-Kyoto phase of the carbon war were in town. The new Executive Director of the Global Climate Coalition, Gail McDonald, presided over a delegation of no less than 63, including representatives from the American Petroleum Institute, the American Automobile Manufacturers Association, and the US National Coal Association. Don Pearlman led his small but brutal Climate Council band. The main American oil companies had their usual representatives. Brian Flannery was there for Exxon to play his scientific sceptic role, as was Fred Singer, batting for all fossil-fuel comers. Leonard Bernstein was in town to push Mobil’s propaganda. At least his current crop had the benefit of clarity. “We oppose legally binding targets and timetables at this time,” the company’s position paper stated. “We don’t believe we should rush to a potentially damaging solution based on an uncertain premise.” What a contrast to BP’s Kyoto position statement. “The prospect of global climate change is a matter for genuine public concern. We share this concern. …This debate is too important for us to stand on the sidelines or just say ‘no’.”
Heading the International Chamber of Commerce delegation of over a hundred, as he had in Berlin, was Texaco’s Clem Malin. My best efforts after Berlin to point out to the ICC the potential conflict of interest in Texaco’s public relations chief speaking for 7,500 businesses and associations in 130 countries had failed. He was still there, and his fingerprints were all over the ICC position statement. This may not have had the shrill tone of a Global Climate Coalition tract, but it subtly pushed voluntary actions as the best way to go. All forms of energy would be required throughout the 21st century. And of course, developing countries should accept the need for their participation.
Aided on the ground by particularly vocal supporters in the US Senate, led by Senator Chuck Hagel, the carbon club would be doing all they could to defend the wrecking position they had built up around participation by the developing countries.
The Kyoto international conference centre was a squat concrete complex amid leafy hills and carp-filled lakes in the north of the city. Registrations on the first morning included 1,500 government delegates from 160 countries and 3,500 journalists from over 400 media organisations. Only 600 seats were available for the latter in the main hall. Meanwhile, 3,600 observers – environmental and business NGOs plus intergovernmental agencies – would be vying for less than 400 seats. To ensure that this did not result in mayhem, the UN had installed large TV screens at various points around the conference complex. These screens would show live coverage of the negotiating sessions, plus press conferences. They would become the focal points for much of the drama in the days that followed. The media and NGOs had been mixed in together in a hall the size of a small football stadium. One would grow used to seeing crowded press conferences in the main press room, yet hundreds more journalists of all nationalities crowded round TV screens listening in the working hall. They would then return to their positions among the rows of long working tables, where they would endeavour to work on their laptops each amid an untidy sprawl of press releases from the NGOs. As the reporters sat there, feverishly typing or frowningly awaiting inspiration, yet more press releases would be added to their individual heaps. Mobile phones trilled incessantly and the hundreds of conversations merged into a constant hum. From the fringing balcony, the hall looked and sounded like a heaving human equivalent of an ant heap.
Only in Rio at the Earth Summit had I seen anything quite like it. This time, however, the negotiations took place on an information revolution wave that had been but a ripple in ‘92. The interest in Kyoto around the world was evidently huge, and it was being met by broadcast of the open sessions live on the Internet. Scheduled interactive chat sessions allowed remote interaction with experts and other guests of the UN in Kyoto.
I watched the Greenpeace delegation at work, a 45 strong party from ten countries. I didn’t miss the stress my friends and former colleagues were under, but I did miss the companionship, the sense of being part of a team. I would not be in their meetings, or even in the environmental NGO co-ordination meetings. I would be attending the business NGO meetings.
That first morning, as I renewed acquaintance with a friend from AOSIS, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned round to see Don Pearlman standing there, an expression of what he seemed to hope was playful greeting on his face. His hand was extended. I shook it by reflex, but regretted doing so at once.
He looked down at my nametag. “And what are you these days?”
I hadn’t spoken to the high priest of the carbon club at any length since Berlin, two years before. I had resolved to end the jocular interactions of the past years when I had read about his credentials in Der Spiegel. His role in the vile attack on the Ben Santer in 1996 had cemented my view.
I looked over his shoulder, weighing the possible responses. Blow it, this was war. He had said so himself. This was an amoral man doing evil work. Why pretend otherwise?
“I really don’t think I want to be talking to you, Don.”
“OK, I wouldn’t want to embarrass you.” The jowls descended, and he departed.
Day One, Monday December 1st, began with the normal speechmaking from the leading lights. Ambassador Raul Estrada, Argentinian master diplomat, was the man with the awesome responsibility of trying to steer this summit to success. He would chair the hard-nosed negotiating sessions, referred to as the Conference of the Whole, while the Chairman for the plenaries would be Japan’s Environment Agency chief, Hiroshi Oki. In his welcoming speech, Oki called for a spirit of co-operation and “friendly concessions.”
The US delegation was led for the moment by Melinda Kimble, an Acting Assistant Secretary of State, and not even a Clinton appointee. Not only had the recently-appointed Assistant Secretary Eizenstat yet to arrive, but it was still not clear whether Vice President Gore would be attending. I found this incredible. How could he stay away?
Kimble gave a bullish speech insisting that all six gases (CO2, methane, nitrous oxide, hydro-fluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulphur hexafluoride) plus sinks be included in the protocol, along with trading and joint implementation for credit. She cast the US target as a decrease in US emissions of approximately 30% below levels we would expect to see in 2010 in the absence of a protocol. This, she said – echoing a mantra of US spokespersons in the preceding weeks – was a significant effort, an effort comparable to that offered by any other party.
It was disingenuity of a most sad kind. First, these were not real emissions reductions. They were reductions in Department of Energy projections for emissions growth – guesstimates twelve years into the future, in essence. Moreover, with all the loopholes the US advocated, how could they know what their effort would sum to by 2010? How did they know that US emissions wouldn’t actually rise in 2010, if they did enough trading, joint implementation and offsetting of emissions against forestry? Emissions in Germany, the UK, Denmark and the rest of the EU would certainly not be rising if the bubble target was to be hit.
But Kimble attacked the bubble too, listing five areas of “strong concern.”
There was one sign of potential compromise. Although the US still advocated a flat-rate target, the US was prepared to consider the possibility of limited, carefully bounded differentiation of country targets, Kimble said. However, neither in the speech nor in the ensuing press briefing did she elaborate.
Luxembourg, speaking in its position as President of the EU, was brief and to the point. “After two years of negotiations,” Ambassador Pierre Gremegna began, “we may have lost sight of the reason we are here.” We must, he emphasised, strengthen the commitment made in 1992. In a press briefing after the session, Gremegna was forthright. The new US flexibility was in the wrong direction, he said. “We get the impression that the game is to find ever more loopholes in these negotiations, and that is a bad omen. We need credible targets.”
On Day Two, another player looking at multi billion dollar stakes began its contribution to the Kyoto process. The global insurance industry had taken $2 trillion in premium income over the previous year. Now over 200 insurance and banking executives from 10 countries gathered in Tokyo to consider the implications of climate change for that considerable pot of capital, hoping to send a clear message to Kyoto. General Accident, Gerling, NPI, Storebrand, Sumitomo and Swiss Re would be sending representatives down to Kyoto later in the week to relay the results.
“One storm could do $100 billion of damage in 100 hours, roughly half of it insured,” said General Accident’s Andrew Dlugolecki, opening the proceedings as usual. “People still haven’t grasped this.”
As the day proceeded, it became clear that people within the threatened industry itself still didn’t seem to grasp it. The two Japanese companies prominent in the initiative, Sumitomo and Yasuda, seemed much less committed to action, or even a sense of urgency, than their European counterparts. At their insistence, language in the insurers’ declaration for Kyoto which in draft form called for urgent agreement of substantial emission reductions was watered down to the following weak passage: “measures which will decouple the emission pathway from a business-as-usual scenario.” Several of my European insurer friends were seething with frustration at this development.
The sad truth was that the insurance industry, for all my hopes – and the promise of events in 1995 – had not evolved into a force capable of exerting any serious pressure on the Kyoto process. After five years of work, I had to face the fact that serious will to act within the financial services sector was still limited to a depressingly small cadre of well informed individuals. The insurers behind the UNEP initiative had tried and failed to persuade their boardrooms to back effective proactive action. For all the promising rhetoric, the insurance industry had yet to agree to field a single full time representative of their interests against the dozens from the oil, coal and auto industries at the climate talks. For a $2 trillion industry – bigger than coal and oil combined – this would have been laughable if it wasn’t such a tragic lost opportunity.
Elizabeth Dowdeswell, UNEP’s Executive Director, did what she could to coax the sector along. “I want to challenge your companies,” she said in her opening speech. “When the time is right, we would like you to join a cross-sectoral business alliance for progress on climate change.”
But the time was right, and had long since been so. That such a cross-sectoral alliance was possible in practice, the UK Industry Solar Taskforce had already perhaps shown in miniature. All that was needed was an international version of the British taskforce, covering the full gamut of clean energy technologies.
And it was not as though erosion of profitability was all that was at stake. The keynote speaker at the UNEP event was the ex Director General of Global Environment at the Japanese Environment Agency, Saburo Kato. Kato had made space to speak out since leaving government service for the world of think tanks, and today he did so. “It seems clear that environmental problems have the potential to irreversibly destroy the conditions necessary to support not only human life but all life on earth in the 21st century,” he told the assembled insurers. This, he argued, offered a little value-added to the business case for proactive action.
New Zealand and Canada at this stage both announced targets: 5% and 3% reductions by 2010, respectively, including a permissive array of loopholes. It was beginning to look like the JUSCANZ group was zeroing in on 3% target. Japan had long since tabled a 3% differentiated target for itself and 5% for most other Annex 1 countries. The US could easily move from zero to 3% to stay in line with their group. Yet Annex 1 countries were today already in total 4.6% below 1990 emission levels, largely as a result of Eastern European economic decline. hence, a 3% target by 2010 would actually represent a rise in emissions notwithstanding loopholes.
More bad news came from the discussion group on targets. The US and Canada had offered little resistance to a suggestion that the protocol embrace only carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide in 1997, and leave consideration of the other three “F” gases until 1998 or later. It seemed that the US might be about to negotiate away the only strong suit it held relative to the EU.
What good news the day had to offer came from the cities. The International Council for Local Environmental gave a press briefing, calling on governments to adopt a 20% target by 2010 like many of their members were going to do. They had 200 municipalities from 29 countries organised in their Cities for Climate protection campaign – over 100 million people, representing fully 5% of global greenhouse emissions. The local governments would be pressing ahead whatever the national governments did.
When I arrived at the negotiations on Day Three, I learned the good news that Vice President Gore would indeed be coming to Kyoto. The bad news was that he would come for one day only, the Monday of week two, and that he seemed to be defusing expectations. “I would make it clear,” he told a press briefing in the White House Cabinet Room, “that, as others have said, we are perfectly prepared to walk away from an agreement that we don’t think will work.”
Writing in the Washington Post, feisty ex British environment minister John Gummer laid out the alarm from across the Atlantic. “The entire scheme seems inspired by a misplaced optimism that ‘something will turn up,’ as if global warming was a bad dream.” The Conservative member of parliament had turned into a bitter critic of conservative America in recent months, and now he lambasted American industry. “In a peculiar way, American business is behaving like old fashioned socialists by trying to protect itself from innovation.”
The New York Times had conducted a large opinion survey on global warming the previous week. Its results were offering encouragement to the American environment groups in Kyoto. Fully 65% of those polled felt that the US should take steps to cut its own emissions immediately, irrespective of what others do. The margin or error on this was just 3%. It seemed, as the New York Times put it, that “the American people are far more willing than their government to take early, unilateral, steps.” As for the public’s response to oil and coal industry arguments that emissions reductions would be economically ruinous, “they appear to be unimpressed,” the Times concluded.
If I had just spent $13 million on an advertising campaign pushing the reductions-ruin-economies line, as US industry groups had, I would have hated to read that.
Meanwhile, progressives in American industry were building a steady backlash. The pro-Kyoto statement signed by business leaders that had appeared in Bonn now had more than 60 signatories. This statement, exhorting the Clinton administration to “provide incentives to act quickly,” had featured in the Wall Street Journal on Day One.
I spent a long time over my suchi wondering what the climate was like in the White House. I thought back to the time I had spent with the earnest and patently sincere Senator Gore in 1991 and 1992, discussing climate change. What must his thinking be like now? I could only conclude that the man I had met then would be feeling torn and guilty. But what would five years as a Vice President of the United States do for core values? On that, I could only speculate.
I read a poignant critique from a provincial journal, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, written by a leading figure in a student organisation called Campus Green Vote. She had once been a canvasser for Gore on the campuses. Now it sounded as if she hated the man. Her article held the worst sting in its tail. “Think of the young people who will inherit the problems you postpone,” she finished, “and, by all means, reread your book.”
Even in Gore’s conservative home state, the heat seemed to be on him. An editorial in The Tennessean concluded as follows. “What the United States should not cede is its leadership on this important issue which has the most serious consequences for the planet. Gore used to be kidded for his interest and concern about such an arcane topic. Now he has the chance to be taken very seriously indeed.”
On Day Three, the war of words between environment groups and business lobbyists began to heat up. Friends of the Earth had hit on the idea of a “Scorched Earth Award.” A trophy comprising a bowl of smoking dried earth would be awarded to the worst carbon criminals at a ceremony on Friday. In the interim, delegates would have the opportunity to vote for their preferred candidate. The short list included Exxon, Mobil, Shell, General Motors, Ford, Tokyo Electric Power and the Global Climate Coalition. Tony Juniper, FoE’s ebullient campaigns director, told me that votes were already flooding in.
In the large room set aside as the business NGO centre, I circulated freely with the representatives of this short list and the rest of the business lobbyists. I had yet to attend my first morning co-ordinating session, and now Clem Malin let it be known via an International Chamber of Commerce official that he wanted to see me before I did. I had already been told by a friend in the Secretariat that the ICC had complained about my presence as a business NGO. The Secretariat had rebuffed them. I was now a genuine business representative, the Secretariat said, and they would simply have to put up with it.
I found Malin working on a document in the meeting room for business attendees. It transpired that he wanted to tell me he was concerned that if I turned up at the business co-ordination meetings, others might simply stop coming. This, he said smoothly, would be a shame.
What did they think I was going to do, I asked, froth at the mouth and disrupt proceedings? These days I was the managing director of a limited company. I chaired an industry taskforce in the UK on which blue chip energy companies, insurers, and banks served. I had every right to be treated as a regular business representative.
Malin looked as though he would say something more, but didn’t. Our brief conversation, I gathered, was over.
Out and about in the conference centre, the extreme fringe among the hundreds of industry lobbyists was already hard at work. J. R. Spradley, representing the Edison Electric Institute, was prominent among them. In all the seven years I had known J. R., the arguments I found so persuasive had evidently progressed not a fraction in his consciousness. He still maintained there was no proof of a global warming threat, and still defended his case with a stubborn pride. With him, I felt like I was discussing religion, not science. With his “nice suit, sharp haircut, and tassled loafers,” so the Washington Post wrote, J. R. was “the kind of guy who makes environmentalists crazy.” The Post then offered the following immortal quote from him to illustrate why. “How many people were following Moses when he started? And there was only one guy saying the Earth was round in the beginning. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
That evening, at a reception, I came across the court jester of the professional sceptics, Fred Singer. Something impelled me to check out the current status of his mental global warming map. “Aren’t you worried,” I asked him, “about how you will be portrayed in the history books say 20-30 years from now?”
“I never think about it,” Singer replied without pause. He was interested in data, he said. He suggested that when he next visited Oxford, he and I have a private discussion about data. A permanent lazy smile sat on his face.
I embroidered my theme, using the medical opinions that had been aired by World Health Organisation experts the previous day. At a press briefing the previous afternoon, four leading medics had concluded that at least 8 million lives could be saved if Kyoto succeeded in adopting targets. Earlier in the week, over 400 physicians from 30 countries had signed a “Medical Warning” in the New York Times supporting action. They included Nobel Laureates and editors of medical journals including The Lancet. Didn’t it worry Singer that the stakes involved, if he was wrong, included millions of avoidable deaths?
Momentary impatience disturbed Singer’s maddening smile. “Those guys aren’t scientists. They are propagandists.” Without elaborating, he switched to a cloying attack. “You know, Jeremy, I’m glad to see you are consistent. I had thought you had just opted to take the Greenpeace money. But it seems that you are intellectually honest. Misguided, but intellectually honest.”
Struggling to keep my own fixed smile in place, I decided I had heard enough. “As for me, Fred, I believe you should be assigned your appropriate place in history. I can promise you I will do my best to make sure you get it.”
On Day Four, I made my inaugural appearance at the daily business NGO co-ordination forum. In the meeting room adjacent to the business NGO centre, some fifty men and women sat around an oblong table waiting for Clem Malin to open proceedings. I took a seat, my pulse rate irritatingly high. As far as I could tell, nobody headed for the door.
Next to me, an American I did not know offered an aside to one of his colleagues. “I didn’t know we had socialists in our meetings.”
Malin called the meeting to order. Before beginning, he said, he wanted introduce a new member to the group.
“Welcome Jeremy to the league of carbon criminals.” And then, to the group, “I guess he’s discovered there is more money on our side.”
Grins around the table.
Michael Jefferson, ex-Shell and now representative of the World Energy Council, addressed himself to Malin. “Are you suggesting that you are unmotivated?”
“Oh no,” Malin laughed.
It was my first clear view of what I knew already. This was not a monolithic group.
Malin steered the gathering through a routine exchange of information about the directionless events of yesterday, and the conference agenda for the day. I heard nothing untoward during this, save a reference to China “wanting it for free” in a discussion about technology transfer discussions. Indeed, it was remarkably like the environmental NGO co-ordination meetings I had attended for Greenpeace in the past, though if this particular session was anything to go by, with a generally far less sophisticated level of political analysis from participants who spoke. I did not attach too much significance to this. I knew that the serious black-hat strategizing would go on within the privacy of each of the carbon club’s individual business groups. In this wider co-ordination forum after all, notwithstanding my own presence, were such questionables as Michael Jefferson, plus the representative of the European Business Council for a Sustainable Energy Future, Paul Metz, and even – these days – BP’s Klaus Kohlhaus.
Jefferson, a dapper and knowledgeable Englishman, came up afterwards and apologised on Malin’s behalf. “Completely out of order,” he said.
Meanwhile in the negotiations, frustrations were now bubbling over into public acrimony. Ambassador Gremagna of Luxembourg, speaking for the EU presidency, accused the host nation of usurping its role by relaunching and leading an offensive on the EU bubble. He also attacked the idea that the EU should take on tougher targets than Japan and the USA. It would be politically impossible to sell to the European people, he insisted. Most pointed of all, he alleged, Japan was “deliberately not understanding” explanations.
Japan’s senior negotiator, Tashiaki Tanabe, dismissed the European outburst as an effort to win public sympathy. Behind closed doors, he said, serious horse trading was going on.
But the Global Climate Coalition seemed sanguine. John Grasser of the US National Mining Association, a Coalition representative, told the press that the Kyoto Climate Summit was heading nowhere. “We think we have raised enough questions among the American public to prevent any numbers, targets or timetables to achieve reductions in gas emissions being achieved here,” he said. He was nothing if not frank. “What we are doing, and we think successfully, is buying time for our industries by holding up these talks.”
On Day Five, the insurance companies appeared at the Conference of Parties for their customary one day a year. At my invitation, Tessa Tennant of NPI and Andrew Dlugolecki of General Accident attended the morning business NGO meeting. So it was that the first insurers saw pretty much the full brigade of leading carbon club lobbyists arrayed.
Tessa and Andrew immediately witnessed a revealing glimpse of the bottom line. Clem Malin began by telling the gathering about a rumour that had been circulating all day yesterday, to the effect that the US was prepared to drop their target from a freeze in emissions to actual cuts. You could see the indignation in body language around the table. This had been roundly denied at a press briefing by the delegation the previous evening, Malin said, his relief clear.
When the meeting closed, I took the insurers up to meet the Texaco man, in Andrew Dlugolecki’s case for the second time. Incredibly, Malin had felt the need to fly across the Atlantic to Edinburgh to visit General Accident after Berlin. Malin’s mission, so Andrew had told me, was to try and persuade him that General Accident’s strong advocacy of action on greenhouse emissions was unwarranted. Unsurprisingly, Malin had drawn a comprehensive blank. But now, as the two talked, I had the clear impression that Malin was no longer worried about the presence of the insurance companies. His manner was relaxed, and I sensed he knew there was little weight behind the insurers’ presence; that they had little support from their Boards, and would disappear the next day, not to be seen for another year, with little or no follow up to trouble him.
Out in the main stadium-sized hall, Friends of the Earth had counted the votes for the Scorched Earth Award, and were preparing to present the trophy. The Global Climate Coalition had won.
Amazingly, it seemed, the Executive Director of the GCC, Gail MacDonald, had agreed to come and accept the award. Perhaps she figured she could turn the media attention to her advantage in some way.
A big crowd gathered. Tony Juniper, as master of ceremonies, explained to newcomers what the award meant, and how the voting had gone. A battery of press photographers hovered. The trophy smoked in front of Tony as he spoke.
One of his colleagues whispered in his ear.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a disappointing announcement,” Tony said. “The Global Climate Coalition have seen fit not to come and explain why they think it is morally defensible to wreck the planet.”
The environmentalist had a reserve card, of course. “Before we go to them to present the award, we have other business spokespeople to offer you a few impressions.”
Tessa Tennant stepped forward then, and in a small but significant way, made a bit of history. She represented a large British pensions and life insurance company, she said. And her company, NPI, had an important and ground breaking announcement to make on this day in Kyoto. “We are calling for governments world-wide to introduce global health warnings on all oil and petrol advertising.” This was a precautionary measure which all governments could readily take, she continued. It was widely recognised that transport emissions were a significant and increasing source of various pollutants. “Let’s focus on this and get the message across to people in their daily lives. This is about managing environmental risk. An informed public is essential to the success of action plans to reduce man-made emissions to ‘liveable’ limits.”
Next, briefly, it was my turn. I offered a few rhetorical soundbites from the Industry Solar Taskforce Statement, casting them as a business counterview to the statements and actions that had won the GCC this award.
Tony Juniper slowly headed in the direction of the business NGO centre, holding the Scorched Earth Award in front of him like a sacred offering. A scrum of photographers and cameramen retreated backwards before him as he advanced with the smoking bowl.
I followed in the crowd at a distance.
At the closed door of the centre, the Coalition had placed one of their young gophers as a guard. This all-American looking figure proceeded to tell Tony that he could not enter the door of the business NGO centre. Cameras whirred and clicked as he spoke.
This was a shame, Tony retorted. He would just have to leave the award outside.
Yes, said the gopher dismissively, motioning at the other side of the corridor. “Put it over there.”
I felt an impromptu devil rise in me, and my mouth was open before I knew it.
“Tony, I am a business NGO. I’ll deliver it for you.”
I stepped forward from the crowd, and Tony passed me the bowl, grinning from ear to ear.
“You can’t stop me going in there,” I told the gopher quietly.
Another suited figure stepped forward from the crowd. It was Paul Metz, the debonair Dutch Executive Director of the European Business Council for a Sustainable Energy Future.
“Jeremy, I will assist you in delivering the award.”
And we opened the door to the business room, holding the bowl between us. The camera shutters merged into a continuous rippling tear sound.
I looked at the incensed faces of the dozen or Global Climate Coalition people within.
“Please,” I said, “allow us to present you with the Scorched Earth Award.”
The insurers held their press briefing a little while later, and the media questions soon homed in on the issue of investment. The Guardian’s man in Kyoto, Paul Brown, was particularly direct. “Isn’t it,” he asked, “really rather simple?” Don’t you just threaten to disinvest unless an oil company starts wholesale investment in solar and other renewables? That could solve the global warming problem in short order. “So, have you made any decision not to invest in Exxon yet?”
The insurers were predictably cagey about addressing specific companies, but I heard some of the strongest public comments on this subject yet.
“What we are saying to individual companies in which we have large shareholdings,” Andrew Dlugolecki responded, “is that we are analysing their strategies on the environment. We will be looking particularly at companies in the energy, transport and tourist industries. If they have not got a good strategy for dealing with climate change, they will not be a good investment.”
Yes, agreed Ivo Knoepfel of Swiss Re. “Oil companies need to reclassify themselves as energy companies and get into the future.”
The press briefing ended, and immediately afterwards the insurers held a two hour seminar to explore details. At this, I could not help airing my disappointment with the industry. I had come to a rather depressing conclusion, I announced in the discussion. It seemed to me now that before climate change becomes a price sensitive issue there will have to be a big catastrophe to wake the market up.
Andrew Dlugolecki responded. The essence was that he wasn’t sure he agreed. We didn’t need to be quite so pessimistic.
At the end of the seminar, Munich Re’s technical chief, Gerhard Berz, came up to me. He too wasn’t sure he agreed either, he said, smiling ruefully. “I think it will take two to three major disasters.”
With Day Six came the last chance for negotiators to make progress before ministers arrived. Sunday was nominally a day of rest, and the high-level segment of the summit was to begin first thing on Monday.
During the day, Chairman Estrada repeatedly expressed frustration at the lack of flexibility evident. “We are late in the process. We are late in the discussions,” he said. “I really would like to invite countries, especially Annex 1 countries, to show flexibility.”
The discussions went on long into the night. But as the hours went by delegates periodically exiting to give waiting NGOs updates reported no sense of a compromise emerging.
Meanwhile, the confrontation between developing and developed countries deepened. New Zealand proposed that developing nations make a binding commitment to limit growth of their emissions after 2015. The US let it be known that the New Zealand proposal enjoyed “conditional” US support.
Ten minutes before New Zealand gave this intervention, which of course was bound to inflame many developing countries, Don Pearlman was overheard by an environmental NGO asking a delegate whether “the bomb had dropped yet.”
Could his influence even extend to stooges in countries like New Zealand? Who could know. Pearlman was constantly to be seen hovering outside the closed sessions of the negotiations, cigarette in hand. He conducted earnest conversations with many diplomats, some of whom clearly came out to brief him – or receive instructions – and who then went straight back in again. Without observing the secretive man around the clock, it was impossible to work out who he might be working with, apart from the obvious players in the Saudi and Kuwaiti delegations. Yet it seemed inconceivable that he would put all his eggs in that one basket.
Periodically, TV crews or press photographers would spend some time with their cameras trained on him, waiting for incriminating shots. Environmental NGOs were constantly pointing him out to newcomers to the negotiations. But they did not have the patience to linger for long, and anyway these days Pearlman spent a lot of time looking round to check who was watching him as he went about his work.
Sunday dawned with blue skies, and there was no question of my being one of the many for whom this would be a day off in name only. I asked where I could find the most beautiful spot in the city, and was pointed to the Kiyomizu Temple, in the woods above the city. I set off through the narrow streets, below blue skies.
I found a temple complex dating from the eighth century nestling in still-autumnal mixed woodland. It was a place of serenity, where notwithstanding crowds of visitors I knew I could linger for hours and recharge. As I approached the magnificent wooden structure, its great overhanging roof curling upward at the corners in the classical ancient Japanese style, I noticed the incongruous sight of a sizeable solar PV array in the yard in front of the temple.
Sure enough, it was a Greenpeace demonstration, and – I was astonished to see – a permanent one. I learned later that the monks had welcomed the chance to make a statement about global warming during the Kyoto Summit. My former colleagues had had no problems persuading them to juxtapose the future with the past in this way.
But as I looked, I heard a familiar rasping voice behind me. “What are you doing ruining this beautiful place with your solar panels, Jeremy?” It was Mobil’s master of propaganda, Leonard Bernstein.
“And what are you doing ruining this beautiful day for me by turning up in it, Leonard?”
Japanese buddhists were not the only religious bodies making a point about global warming that day. The World Council of Churches, representing a very broad sector of religious organisations, chose Sunday to issue their statement in Kyoto. They called on governments in no uncertain terms to support the AOSIS protocol. As the first week ended, it was pretty clear which side the deities were on.
I was wise to take the day off, it turned out. By the end of the first week of the Kyoto Summit, around 30 delegates had been admitted to hospital with dehydration and exhaustion. On Sunday, Tony Juniper joined them. The irrepressible Friends of the Earth Director collapsed and was put on a saline drip overnight.
On Day Eight, the conference centre was packed. With the arrival of ministers had come a further influx of journalists and NGOs. 5,500 journalists were now registered.
This was to be the day that Al Gore would say his piece, and the serious endgame would begin.
The melee outside the main hall was a sight to behold. Finding a seat in there for Vice President Gore’s speech was clearly going to be impossible, and so I found a chair by one of the big TV screens. Coffee in hand, I settled down to wait. Large crowds soon built up around each screen.
The first major speech of the high-level segment was by the Japanese Prime Minister, Ryutaro Hashimoto. Climate change, he said, was a “direct threat to the future of humankind.” But he went from there to give the latest in the lengthening catalogue of national leaders’ speeches, over the years, in which rhetoric about the threat far outstripped sincerity and urgency about the response.
The second of the three heads of state in Kyoto was Costa Rican President Jose Maria Figueres, who spoke for many developing nations. “My friends from the North,” he concluded, “the ball is in your court.”
The President of Nauru, Kinza Clodumar, elaborated from the perspective of the small island states, and he put their case – as so many from the islands had over the years – with emotion and aplomb. “The wilful destruction of entire countries and cultures with foreknowledge would represent an unspeakable crime against humanity. No nation has the right to place its own, misconstrued national interest before the physical and cultural survival of whole countries. The crime is cultural genocide. It must not be tolerated by the family of nations.”
Clodumar continued in this vein for some minutes before coming to the bottom line. “President Clinton promised that the US would bring to Kyoto a pledge for significant future reductions.” he turned to his left to address the seated Gore directly. “Vice President Gore, we await your announcement with bated breath.” He ended with a cross between a plea and a prayer. “Let us create a Kyoto Protocol that we can show proudly to our children. Let us take action, effective action, prompt action, here in Kyoto, without reservation, without delay, for now and forever.”
As a thunderous ovation greeted the Nauru leader’s speech, a smiling Al Gore came into camera view to pump his hand, and clap a hand on his arm.
The Vice President began his own words with a routine global warming seminar. “The trend is obvious,” he concluded. The challenge was to find out whether and how we could change. None of the proposals on the table would solve the problem. They were all a first step. That first step must involve realistic and binding targets.
The US had listened to the developing countries, Gore said. “We do not want to founder on a false divide.” The US had listened to its developed country partners too. “You have shown leadership and we are grateful.”
But the US proposal, Gore emphasised, was serious. “It involves a 30 percent reduction from what would have been.” He reached the bottom line: “After talking to President Clinton a few hours ago, I am instructing our negotiators to show increased flexibility.”
As soon as the speech finished, NGOs and journalists broke from their ranks around the TV screens to offer and record reaction. A line of four chosen environmental NGO representatives, from Africa, Asia, America and Europe, formed up in front of a battery of TV cameras. The condemning soundbites began. “I don’t know who we heard, Al Gore or Al Bush,” raged Atiq Rahman from Bangladeshi.
Extract copies of the Congressional Record from 7th May 1992 had been passed out en masse earlier. They bore out Rahman’s barb with brutal precision. Speaking on the eve of the Rio Earth Summit, Al Gore had had this to say of President George Bush and his moral responsibilities with regard to the climate convention. “It is about far more than hopping on a plane for quick photo opportunity. …It is not about trying to pull the wool over peoples’ eyes and pretending to be doing something when actually nothing is being done. It is about leadership, it is about courage, and the president is exhibiting neither of these qualities. It is about embracing a perspective that extends well beyond the next election.”
To emphasize the hypocrisy that so many NGOs felt Gore guilty of, Tony Juniper – now off his saline drip and back in action – read passages from Earth in the Balance in a lament while TV crews filmed him.
Reaction from official Europe was mixed. The Danish Environment Minister, Svend Auken, told journalists he thought the speech was “diplomatic climate fraud.” John Gummer, Conservative ex British environment minister, was just as forthright. “Rubbish,” he snapped at TV cameras, speaking about Gore’s claim that 30% cuts from projections was as good as any nation proposed. “By his formula, Britain is offering a 50% cut.” But Peter Jorgensen, the European Commission spokesman, held a different view. “Vice President Gore has given us a window of opportunity, and we don’t get many of those.”
This was the view of the big American environment groups, who invariably tended to be less critical than their international counterparts. The Environmental Defense Fund cast the speech as a significant step in the right direction.
For myself, I viewed the speech and the strategy both – at best – as cruel brinksmanship. A view that would be contingent on a Protocol being agreed.
The Global Climate Coalition press release appeared almost before Gore had left the podium. It beggared belief. “The current White House position will result in a 30 percent reduction in energy use nationwide. There is no available technology to accomplish that goal.” The second sentence was underlined.
Here were two grotesque examples of Global Climate Coalition distortion in two concise sentences.
Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, one of the six senators at the summit, put out a statement on behalf of the carbon club’s legislative flankers. “The Senate has spoken,” he stormed. “We will not support any treaty that does not require the developing countries to sign on to the binding commitments that we’re asking of the United States.”
The Senator’s scaremongering echoed the Global Climate Coalition’s exactly. “Entire industries will leave the United States for countries that won’t be bound by this treaty. For the first time in American history we would be giving an international body the authority to limit and regulate our economic growth.”
That same morning, an advertisement appeared in the Washington Times plunging the tenor of the conservative case into new depths of distaste. It showed a photo of the Japanese surrendering at the end of World War Two. “America has signed many treaties …but never a treaty of surrender. But that is what could happen in Kyoto.”
Vice President Gore gave a press briefing soon after his speech. “President Clinton and I will be hard at work behind the scenes,” he promised, “telephoning presidents and prime ministers and asking them to deal with positions that their negotiating teams are taking when we believe that they’re not helpful.“
He was asked the obvious vital question. What did he mean by a new flexibility from the US negotiators? “I’m going to leave the specifics to them. I think that’s the right way to do it. But the President and I have been specific with them about their instructions, and, in due time, you will see exactly what it means.”
And indeed, by the end of the day European diplomats were reporting a greater willingness by US diplomats to plug loopholes in the specifics of trading and joint implementation. More than that, they reported that in his fourteen hours of consultations, Al Gore had not ruled out the possibility that the US would raise its target for curbing emissions.
On Day Nine both the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the Business Council for a Sustainable Energy Future would be giving press briefings. I went to the World Business Council event. Among the row of executives on the platform was BP’s Klaus Kohlhaus. BP had put the Global Climate Coalition far behind it. Today it represented the Union of Industrial and Employers’ Confederations of Europe. “UNICE and industry in Europe are prepared to support targets,” Kohlhaus announced. “Industry is actually contributing and delivering.” I had never before heard Klaus Kohlhaus speak in this vein. What was more, he spoke for 130 companies in 35 countries in 25 industrial sectors. He went on to offer the BP view. “My company has come up with a strategy on climate change because we believe there is a business opportunity for solar in the years to come.”
The contrast here with the American oil companies was total. I wondered what Clem Malin would have thought about the performance had he been there to see it. After all, Texaco was a member of the World Business Council. Others speaking at the event, including WBCSD President, Bjorn Stigson, echoed the BP man, and though they admitted that the spread of the opinion within the WBCSD did not allow a consensus statement about targets, it was clear that Texaco had been marginalised.
During questions, I took a turn at the floor microphone. I recalled the Business Council’s press conference in Rio, seven years ago, and the performance given by ENI on behalf of oil and gas interests in the Council then. It seemed to me that the companies here today had come much further than governments in the interim, I volunteered. Would the panelists agree? And if so, why is it that the companies in the Global Climate Coalition hadn’t enjoyed the same evolution?
Stigson responded first. He agreed. They were doing this because it made business sense.
Klaus Kohlhaus guardedly addressed the last part of the question. There were different views in industry, he said. But BP had been listening to its customers and the public perhaps more than its counterparts in the USA.
The US and European arms of the Business Council for a Sustainable Energy Future gave a joint intervention in the high-level session, where speechmaking was still underway. This group, representing Enron and other renewable and efficient energy interests, gave a firm alternative view to the Global Climate Coalition’s incredible statement about technology not existing for reductions in projected emissions increases. “We all know with confidence,” US Executive Director Mike Marvin said, “that appropriate steps to respond to climate change – based upon the efficient and clean use of energy – will lead to long-term, worldwide economic growth. An early and meaningful reduction target for Annex 1 countries will help convince developing countries that a less carbon-intensive economy is viable.”
In the late afternoon, the European Union held a press briefing. The Environment Commissioner, Beau Bjerregard of Denmark, was upbeat. “I still hope for an ambitious target,” she said. “I haven’t given up hope. The Americans are serious and trying hard. We are still negotiating with them, and it is still too early to say what the outcome will be yet.”
German TV asked the question on all minds. “Is there any sign of the increased flexibility that Vice president Gore talked about yesterday.”
Bjerregard smiled. “Yes,” she said.
By evening the waiting round and constant rumour analysis had led many to the sake bar in the main hall foyer, myself and J. R. Spradley included. I stood there talking to him, watching Don Pearlman tirelessly working the delegates in the distance.
I had come by a copy of a letter intimating that the Edison Electric Institute had been guilty of suppressing a consultancy study showing the economic costs of US emissions reductions were nowhere near as high as industry hoped to show. Californian Representative Henry Waxman had written to the Institute – J. R. Spradley’s employer and one of my funders – demanding to know if this, as reported in “Air Daily,” was true. I now asked J. R. if it indeed was.
“You should never believe everything you read. You know, people take half a piece of information and stick it in the press.”
“Oh, the Global Climate Coalition never takes half a piece of information and sticks it in the press?”
“I dunno,” Spradley replied, slugging back a cup of sake in one. Then he grinned at me. “Maybe once.”
At the long-awaited US press briefing, the potential deal finally took some shape. “Our proposals include real reductions below 1990 levels in the 2008-2012 timeframe,” Under Secretary Eizenstat told the press. “This represents significant movement on our part.” But, he emphasised, the deal was contingent. It would have to include all six greenhouse gases, appropriate carbon sinks, flexible market mechanisms such as trading and joint implementation for credit, and meaningful participation of key developing countries.
Brazil had come up with a proposal which met with American approval, it seemed. It involved a so-called Clean Development Mechanism that would encourage investment in new energy savings technology in the developing world.
But all this came with a warning. “We do not sense the urgency on the part of many countries that is necessary given the lateness of the hour.”
The Global Climate Coalition rushed out its predictably rabid response. “President Clinton said the United States should walk away from a bad deal. This is a terrible deal. The United States should not walk away. It should run.”
But this was an attempted deal evidently now being driven by the US.
The environmental NGOs’ evening press briefing was so packed that hundreds viewed it from the gallery above the Event Hall, looking down into the roofless NGO centre.
“This night might be the most important night in the history of the climate,” said the Worldwide Fund for Nature’s spokesman.
“The next 24 hours are the most important in the history of this planet,” said the Climate Action Network’s spokeswoman, not to be outdone.
On the last day, December 10th 1997, a mood of grim indignation hung in the air at the morning industry NGO co-ordination meeting. A deal was still a possibility. This was not the plan at all.
Clem Malin provided the carbon club with their main ammunition for the day, a letter from the Senate majority leader, Senator Trent Lott, to Senator Hagel in Kyoto. Malin read out the key part. “I have made clear to the President personally that the Senate will not ratify a flawed climate change treaty.”
Photocopies of cartoons from the conservative press were also handed out. One, from the Orange County Register, showed a towering militiaman with “U.N.” on his helmet and “Global Warming Police” on his helmet wagging a finger at the Statue of Liberty. “Do you have a permit for that torch?” asks this fascist-like figure.
All morning the small contact groups of negotiators with final responsibility met. Like the day before, there was little for the majority of the 10,000 delegates to do except wait, and gossip. Only those with proxy ears and voices inside the secret meetings, such as Don Pearlman on one side and Greenpeace policy director Bill Hare on the other, were able to attempt to influence things at this late stage.
The final Conference of the Whole, where the deal would be done or ditched, was due to start at 1 p.m. But one o’clock came and went. The new target for the start was set at 6 p.m. It seemed that a group of eleven countries was cutting the final prospective deal: the US and Japan for JUSSCANZ, the UK, Netherlands and Luxembourg for the EU; and for the developing countries China, India, Brazil, Columbia, Samoa and Tanzania.
In the vacuum, environmental NGOs with dark circles under their eyes staged impromptu demonstrations in the Event Hall. Anti-American sentiment was running high, and one of these demonstrations – if not quite matching the xenophobic paranoia of the Orange County cartoon, then approaching it – involved an American flag, a person in a hood, some oil-industry corporate logos and a hangman’s noose.
At half past six, the Conference of the Whole came to order. Deep crowds gathered round the TV screens.
Ambassador Raul Estrada opened proceedings. The final draft text, he said, would be presented to delegates when the papers were ready, and the final session would begin at eleven o’clock.
We now knew for sure, as though we hadn’t before, that this was going to be an all-nighter.
Estrada spelt out his plan. The Conference would begin by considering Article 3, on commitments, and then go from 1 to 28 in sequence. Thereafter there would be two annexes: “A” listing the gases – all six – to which the Protocol would apply, and “B” where the differentiated targets to be undertaken by the developed countries would be listed. This text would be considered on pretty much a take-it-or-leave-it basis, he made clear. It would be submitted only for improvements. If it could be agreed, it would then go to a brief formal Conference of the Parties chaired by Japan where it would be adopted.
“If we can reach a binding agreement,” the Chairman said dramatically, “this day will be remembered as The Day of the Atmosphere.”
If not, he left unsaid, we would face further years of unfettered fossil fuel profligacy. Worse yet, we would know the surreal despair of wondering whether governments would ever prove capable of tackling – even beginning to tackle – a problem which threatens the future of our species.
I left to have dinner with a group of my old colleagues from environment groups. As we ate, mobiles phoned rang incessantly with incoming messages from last-minute contact groups considering the draft text. A delegate reporting from inside the G77 and China group said that by the end of that night there might no longer be a G-77. Most countries were willing to accept any compromise deal at this stage, but China and India were filibustering on trading and joint implementation.
As we gulped coffee a call came from an American NGO. He had just met Eizensat, who had told him the talks were on the verge of collapse because China was vehemently opposing emissions trading.
We need not have bothered rushing, because when we got back to the conference centre, it was clear that the final Conference of the Whole would not be starting at eleven.
I wandered around the conference centre as the thousands waited. The hall where the Conference of the Whole was to meet was a bizarre spectacle. The final session would be completely open, and the back wall was already lined with a bristling battalion of TV cameras. CNN would be running live coverage.
Famous broadcasters drifted in the crowds, mobile phones in hand. In the galleries, NGOs had already taken all the available seats, plus much of the standing room, in order to be able to see the drama live. I knew that far more comfortable options existed around the big TV screens outside, but I had resolved to watch the denouement in the vicinity of Don Pearlman, so that I could see his response to the unfolding events he had done so much to shape.
To my good fortune, Pearlman opted for a guaranteed seat by a TV screen. I took a seat twenty feet away behind a now-deserted U.N. information desk. I put a “closed” sign on it, and settled down for the night. My eyes were already red.
Most of Pearlman’s hard-line colleagues were with him. Leonard Bernstein of Mobil sat on his left, with Gail MacDonald of the Global Climate Coalition two along. Nearby, in a clutch of other footsoldiers, sat Clem Malin of Texaco, Brian Flannery of Exxon, Constance Holmes of the US National Coal Association, and John Schiller of Ford. Here, within the thickness of a coal seam or the diameter of an oil wellhead, were the main executioners of the fossil-fuel industries’ prolonged rearguard action.
The thousands milled as the telephone calls from world leaders jumped around the planet, and the final draft text was prepared. Just after one o’clock, flustered U.N. officials appeared in the conference hall with piles of hot photocopies of the draft Kyoto Protocol. They began handing them out, and I was lucky enough to get one of the first. It was just as well, a writhing scrum of people, arms extended and hands grasping, developed within seconds.
I turned straight to Annex B. The numbers were not yet there, but the rumour was that the US had agreed to a seven percent cut, with Japan opting for six and the EU eight.
Of course, first the conditions had to be agreed.
I scanned quickly through the rest of the document. Trading was covered in three paragraphs of Article 3 on targets and timetables. Joint implementation was in Article 6, and the whole of Article 9 was a carefully worded manifesto for how developing countries could take on binding targets if they wished to do so, at any time. They could take on a level of emission limitation, or reduction, meaning that if they wanted to they could simply commit at this stage to limit the rate of rise of their emissions.
And now the final session of talks began. With 28 articles and two annexes to shepherd through, and some seven hours before the UN’s translators would have to leave Kyoto, Chairman Estrada kicked off with Article 3, as he had said.
He made rapid progress until he came to the paragraphs on emissions trading. China then objected. This was new language, their Ambassador said. The old Article on this subject had been dropped.
India immediately joined them.
Saudi Arabia, quick as ever to exploit any sign of an embryonic divide, egged them on.
Brazil supported the trading language. Russia spoke indignantly about what it saw as its “sovereign right” to trade. The discussion ebbed and flowed.
The minutes became an hour.
Estrada appealed for delegates to simply accept the text. They had discussed it at length in AGBMs, he stressed, and everyone knew that the commitments proposed by some parties were contingent on this language.
The Americans now spoke up. “We know full well we are the world’s largest emitter,” Eizenstat said, reprising the old refrain which been thrown at them. The US knew all about the responsibility to show leadership, he emphasised. “This discussion is the most important in the history of the global climate issue.” And he wanted to be clear. The US had moved from its opening position of a freeze by 2010 to “very deep cuts.” Others had moved too – the EU, New Zealand, Canada. But the US required innovative options to meet these targets. “I urge in the strongest terms, now that these historic commitments are about to be made, not to deprive us of the means to meet them. The eyes of the world are upon us. We have the opportunity to do something great.” But the trading mechanism, he said, was needed to do that.
Canada and Japan spoke up in immediate support.
So too did Samoa, for AOSIS. The island nations were now desperate for any deal.
China came in again. “What are the rules of the trading game? This question has to be addressed before it can be put into a legally binding instrument.”
The language in Article 3 deferred rulemaking and guidelines for verification for later agreement by the Conference of Parties.
India supported China. The compromise wording was no compromise at all, and now the Indian Ambassador proposed entirely fresh wording.
Uganda supported both China and India, and Saudi Arabia stepped in to support all three.
I saw with shock that three hours had now elapsed. I felt a bitter impotent anger rising inside as I watched.
With the clock approaching 4 a.m., Chairman Estrada appealed for sanity. “We are about to blow any chance of an agreement,” he warned. “It has long been understood that trading should be included. One side has shown some flexibility, the other not. We need more flexibility.
Soon after that, he called for a 5 minute recess. His intention to knock heads together in private was clear.
I watched Malin of Texaco, Bernstein of Mobil, and Flannery of Exxon laughing together. The negotiators were nowhere near the issue of maximum contention yet. I looked around, and marvelled that at that point – with perhaps 3,000 journalists in the conference centre – not one was photographing or filming the moment of carbon club triumphalism.
Pearlman, strangely inscrutable, did not join in. I marvelled that no OPEC diplomats had been out to him for instructions, as they normally did.
The recess turned into 30 minutes, and I felt then the despair of knowing there would be no Protocol.
Chairman Estrada came back with a compromise. Trading would be in, covered in a fresh article, “16 bis” in arcane UN treaty language, but the details would be worked out later. He raised his gavel, and hit the desk to signify adoption of the article.
Most of the diplomats applauded.
One down and 27 to go.
“We only have two hours in all six languages,” Estrada warned. He then adopted two articles, 4 on compliance and 5 on methodologies, within as many minutes. The clock read 5.20.
Immediately, Kuwait tried to stall the next Article. Estrada brushed them aside. “I don’t see any possibility of consensus on that. So Article 2 is adopted.” He hit the desk with a loud bang of his gavel.
Kuwait came back. “This Protocol affects our future livelihoods. We cannot just push things through.”
“Thank you. Let us go to Article 6. I see no objections.” Bang. “It is adopted.”
Clapping and now laughter filled the hall.
Two more Articles received the same treatment, and hope rose fluttering inside me.
Stony faces now stared at the screen from the carbon camp.
The conference hall had by this time taken on the appearance of a refugee camp. Less committed diplomats and journalists slept in tumbled rows against walls, or slumped in chairs, oblivious to the drama.
But now we came to Article 9, setting out terms for participation by developing countries. Saudi Arabia asked for its deletion, immediately supported by China and India. There would be no gavelling this through, and debate welled again, with the US, Russia, the island nations and Argentina insisting the Article stayed.
Six o’clock came, and Estrada appealed for countries to make only brief interventions. “We are really so close to the end of our facilities.”
Soon after, the Chairman took a desperate decision. He could not see any chance of consensus, he said.
“We will delete this article.”
This would be the moment for a US walkout, and a carbon club victory. India and China would be blamed, at least as much as the Americans if not more.
But the US sat tight.
I watched the carbon club for reaction. There was none. They were all awake, which was more than could be said for many environmentalists at this point. But the grim faces stared at the screen torpidly. Nobody conferred.
They must have been contemplating the grim contours of their fight in 1998. The one article on developing country participation, mildly worded as it was, had now gone from the Protocol. They would have to use this to do all they could to prevent ratification. Would it be enough?
Estrada launched himself into a further phase of rapid gavelling.
We came next to joint implementation, Article 13. Another pedantic debate erupted over how the already differentiated targets could be tinkered with by offsetting emissions achieved overseas. The Protocol on offer in Kyoto was never going to be perfect, and now the more selfish among the industrialised nations defended their partial get-out clauses.
At 6.50, copies of the Daily Yomiuri arrived in piles. “Deal Struck in Kyoto Talks,” the headline screamed. Channel Four’s correspondent walked past talking worriedly into a mobile. “This thing is falling apart,” he told his newsdesk.
By dawn, they were still less than half way through the Articles. Finally, Chairman Estrada gavelled through a compromise on joint implementation.
Nobody objected. Nobody walked out.
The major points of contention had come and gone. But it was so, so late.
I watched with rising hope as Estrada once again began rattling off articles.
He came to the article on entry into force. The text stipulated that the Protocol would come into force after it had been ratified by parties responsible for at least 55% of the carbon dioxide emissions in Annex 1 countries. Canada proposed 65%. No, said Estrada, that would give a veto in principle to one country (the US). Japan and Australia proposed 60%. The Marshall Islands supported the original.
“There is no consensus,” Estrada said impatiently. “We adopt the original.”
Two more zipped by. It was 7.35, and he had two final articles, and the two annexes to go.
One of the articles involved the touchy issue of sinks, and another round of carping interventions began. Argentina tried to reintroduce the Article on developing country participation. No, China said stridently. That cannot be done once the Chairman’s gavel has fallen.
Estrada allowed the discussion to ebb and flow for a while, and then made his decisions, and gavelled thought the compromise language.
Nine a.m. had arrived. The exhausted interpreters could not stay a moment longer.
The equally exhausted negotiators endured a lengthy wait as the draft of Annex B was prepared. At this point, Don Pearlman made the only mobile phone call I had seen him make all night.
Finally the single sheet of numbers arrived. The clock was approaching 10 a.m.
The US had indeed agreed to a seven percent reduction target in the basket of six greenhouse gases. The E.U. target was eight percent. Japan’s was six. The overall target for the industrialised countries, including permitted increases for Australia, Iceland, and Norway, amounted to 5.2%
This was not bad at all. It would surely send a signal into energy markets, notwithstanding the potential loopholes inherent in trading and sinks.
And nobody could oppose this: it was the heart of the compromise that had made a deal possible.
“The overall target of 5.2 percent is 30% below business as usual,” Estrada said. It would be 10% below expected emissions in the year 2000. “This we can celebrate.” It will, he emphasised, have an impact on atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations.
Then, with the gavel blow adopting Annex B, Estrada made history. “I will now forward this Protocol for adoption by the plenary,” he said, beaming.
The applause was long and loud. On the platform, staid UN officials embraced. On the negotiating floor, I later learned, seasoned diplomats were weeping.
Don Pearlman, saying not a word to his colleagues, put his arms on his knees, extended his fingers, and rested his head on them, staring into nothing for several minutes. The rest of the carbon club sat, wordless and grim faced, staring at the TV screen.