|A GOOD DEAL?|
December 11, 1997
After nearly two weeks of negotiations, delegates to the global warming conference in Kyoto, Japan announced they had reached a deal to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases produced world wide. Following a background report, Margaret Warner, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) discuss whether or not the U.S. Senate will ratify the agreement.
MARGARET WARNER: Joining us now are two members of the U.S. Senate: Republican Pat Roberts of Kansas and Democrat Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, who was in Kyoto as an observer. Is this a good agreement?
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN, (D) Connecticut: Yes, it is a good agreement. It's certainly not a perfect agreement, but it's the beginning, as Amb. Eizenstat said, of a long process to meet the reality of global greenhouse gas emission increases and the potential threat that they pose for our environment. It was really an extraordinary agreement when you consider the number of nations, their various interests, and the very local and personal effects of this agreement. So in that sense I think the nations of the world really rose to face the common threat as opposed to yielding to their separate vested interests.
MARGARET WARNER: A good start on a common threat?
SEN. PAT ROBERTS, (R) Kansas: I don't know. I think the devil's in the details. The Senate voted 95 to nothing to give advice to the President to say basically two things: Whatever treaty would be approved or would be signed would be global. It would involve all countries. That was not the case; and that it would not do harm to the U.S. economy. And while I'm very pleased that the Vice President said today there will be no new taxes or new regulatory schemes, I don't see how on earth we reached the goals that were expressed or that were agreed to by the President. We're talking about 7 percent, as opposed to 5 percent, back to 1990. We've increased our energy consumption about 30 some percent. We're talking about 44/45 percent in terms of a cutback. I don't know how we do that.
MARGARET WARNER: Just let me explain. You're saying that's--compared to where we would be in energy emissions by the year 2012 we will really have to cut 40 plus percent.
SEN. PAT ROBERTS: That's correct. I think in a larger sense there are many of us in the Senate who are worried that in regards to harming the U.S. economy we have quite a bit of information and models in agriculture and in the business community that takes a look at this new criteria. Again, I'm very pleased the administration has indicated no new taxes because this is the same group of people who recommended the BTU tax in 1993. We're going to hold them to that, but I think it's interesting that we are delaying the ratification for a year, because obviously the Senate is not going to pass it unless these developing nations--India, Mexico, and China--are on board. China says they're not going to be on board, what, for the next maybe 50 years. So we're going to have to take a very hard look at this, and I think it's probably positive that we have the debate. But I'm still very concerned.
MARGARET WARNER: How can you implement this, or meet the targets, without new taxes and new regulations?
|Meeting the requirements.|
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: Well, first the President And Vice President have been very clear about this, so I think that taxes are off the table. I haven't heard anybody talk about it. Second, remember we're not talking literally about the reduction of energy consumption by 40 or 30 percent, as I think it's closer to, but the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by that amount. And, therefore, the question is: How do we power our society? What sources of energy do we use? And the challenge here that this agreement poses to us--and we can meet it--is to drive technology so that we're using much more energy efficient, less polluting sources. We can do it, and that's the whole history of this country. I mean, when we passed the Clean Air Act, there was tremendous worry in a lot of the businesses affected by it that we'd knock them out, and since it's gone into effect, their economy has been stronger than ever. It's the last five years, and technology has driven--been driven to a point where people have figured out how to do what they wanted to do in a cleaner and safer way. And I think that's what we can do here. Remember, this treaty's binding commitments don't go into effect until 2008. And you don't have to meet the targets till 2012. So we've got a good 10 years to get ready here, and I'm confident we can do it. And the good news is that not only when we do, it not only will reduce greenhouse gas emissions but it will make us more energy efficient and energy independent, which is important to us strategically. And it'll mean that we're polluting the air less, which is important to our health. So I think this is a real opportunity for us to pull together and make it happen.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you think, Senator, it can be done through technological innovation?
SEN. PAT ROBERTS: In part. I think the President is going to recommend $5 billion in regards to tax credits for new technology to allow the business community to do what he thinks is possible in regards to this criteria, but let me tell my distinguished colleague and good friend from Connecticut I have here a sub-panel of the UN that recommends a whole series of things for agriculture--and I'm from Kansas, and I'm interested in the farmer and rancher, as are a lot of Senators--one, this sub-group already recommended fuel taxes, fertilizer taxes, regulation of animal density. That means we have too many critters in the Dodge City feedlot. We can't plan on certain ground, that you're going to have to rotate crops. We just passed a brand new farm bill where we got out of subsidies, and we gave the farmer the decision-making power. Joe's right. Through precision agriculture and tremendous technology advances and the productivity of the American farmer we're feeding this country in a very troubled and hungry world. There are 2 million children in the world that go to bed hungry, or who are malnourished, or in the case of certain countries even experiencing starvation. What I'm worried about is groups like this and other regulatory proposals here that will throw a monkey wrench into the productivity of American agriculture. One other thing; we sit on the Armed Services Committee--we're good friends and we work for a strong national defense--there's no exemption here for the military. There's no exemption here for the armed services. Bill Cohen is asking--our Secretary of Defense--what is our obligation here? And if ships can't sail and if planes can't fly and we can't train with those kinds of cutbacks, those are the kinds of questions we're going to have to answer before we go to Argentina and find out all of the details of this.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: Let me add a word just in response to Pat's last point, which is one of the things that did happen in Kyoto, and it has received almost no notice, I'm not surprised he hasn't heard about it, is that there was an agreement to exempt military from this in overseas deployments and in surge deployments at a time of crisis. So the Pentagon at this point is very happy with the agreement.
SEN. PAT ROBERTS: Well, now we're involved in a hundred nations. Are they all surge?
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: No. This is the question of Persian Gulf type activity where you wouldn't have to--
SEN. PAT ROBERTS: I hope maybe Bosnia. Maybe we can troops--
MARGARET WARNER: Explain to me and to our viewers about what we're really talking about here. Are we saying that we continue to burn coal and oil and wood, but somehow do it in a cleaner way so the emissions are less, or do we have to really switch to solar and wind and totally different kinds of technology?
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: The good news here is that this is up to us. Pat read from that piece from the United Nations group. First, let me assure you that just as the President has promised no new taxes, I promise I will never vote for any limitation on critters in Dodge City. I just want to make that crystal clear.
SEN. PAT ROBERTS: You won't--put your blue helmet on and come out--
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: I will not. It's up to--I mean, some group had some ideas--it's up to us.
SEN. PAT ROBERTS: It says right here this is the group that is proposing all of the specifics in regards to the treaty. That's what I'm worried about, Joe.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: But there is nothing that is suggestive really. We accept a target of emissions reduction and then it's up to us as to how we meet that target. One of the great things that happened at Kyoto was that there was an acceptance of the idea of an emissions treaty, which is a non-governmental, non-bureaucratic approach, which we used in the Clean Air Act to reduce acid rain. And it's worked remarkably well. On your question, the point here is that probably we're going to have to either figure out how to burn cleaner coal and cleaner oil, or we're going to burn less of them. And we're going to have to develop alternative sources of energy and use them more. Yes, solar, wind, which we're beginning to use pretty well, and eventually some whole new technologies, like fuel cells, which most of the business people and the scientists in Kyoto feel are the great new energy source.
MARGARET WARNER: And what are they?
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: Well, basically uses hydrogen, and they're self-generating. I mean, we're probably about 25 years away from having this work. But, you know, while we were in Japan Toyota Motors started a market for the first time--a massed produced electric hybrid car, which achieves a remarkable fuel efficiency and it self-generates the batteries. You don't have to plug it in. It's not the end result, but it's an example of the way the need to be more efficient about energy consumption to be cleaner about it, will drive new technology.
SEN. PAT ROBERTS: Let me just say that I'm interested in the gas permit trading market, the greenhouse gas permit trading market. I share the concern and the hope of Joe here--
MARGARET WARNER: Let me explain briefly what that is--this emissions trading system--it would enable countries that actually meet their quotas--say targets--and get below to sell those--that extra credit.
SEN. PAT ROBERTS: This is a non-bureaucratic approach that we have here. And it says the UN trading authority, UN central command, UN monitoring authority, certification, this looks--you know what I'm going to say--this looks like the health care plan. If this isn't bureaucratic, I don't represent Kansas. Again, the devil's in the details. We have the American Farm Bureau and other models and all sorts of land grants deals that have tried to take a look at the cutbacks that would be mandated, and I know the President has indicated and the Vice President has indicated, you've indicated no new taxes. But to reset criteria and to put those kind of requirements or mandates--and we've haven't decided how or why yet because we've got to go to Argentina to find out as of next year--that's going to be terribly difficult to do. And what I'm worried about is a mandate on the American business community and the American farmer and ranchers who have to feed this country in a troubled and hungry world that they'll have the obligation to reach that criteria. And then the proponents of all this, who have probably swallowed more CO2 than they need to, is to say, well, that's up to you, but we didn't propose any new taxes, and we didn't propose any kind of a regulatory scheme. This is a regulatory scheme. These are the things that worry our farmers and ranchers, and obviously should worry your constituents. I think you pay about a buck fifty for a gallon of gasoline up in your country. We pay about a buck nine. Of course, we drive--but that's the kind of thing--plus the fact that it doesn't really answer the question of global warming. I see no evidence out here that this kind of cutbacks and this kind of a regulatory scheme will actually reduce the problem.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: Well, of course--I'm sorry--go ahead.
MARGARET WARNER: It does raise the question--you mentioned it--that we don't even have to meet our target till 2008. Why--I'm just wondering if politically you think this is viable. You ask the American people to assume new costs surely, or business to take new risks for benefits pretty far down the line that in the end you won't know if they're getting the benefit really. I mean, if global warming isn't here, it's like the tiger is not at your door, but would it have been otherwise.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: Well--
MARGARET WARNER: How do you do it?
|An insurance policy?|
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: I've looked at the science, and it seems to me that everybody agrees the greenhouse gas emissions are going up dramatically since the beginning of the industrial age. They've gone up about a third in that period of time. They're at the highest levels of concentration in the last 10,000 years. The question is--and some people disagree-what impact is it having? The odds are that the impact will be to increase the temperature. It's gone up a degree in the last century; in Connecticut, where we've measured for a century, it's gone up 2 1/2 degrees, rainfall has increased 20 percent. So I view this as buying an insurance policy. My reading of the science is that the odds are that we're going to face global warming, rising sea level, more pests for farmers to deal with, changing weather, extreme floods, and drought that will affect what farmers, for instance, do. So we ought to buy an insurance policy to deal with it. You know, I buy an insurance policy on my house. I don't know there's going to be a fire or a pipe is going to break, but I spend the money on it because the consequences of not having insurance are worse. And that's what we're doing here.
MARGARET WARNER: Briefly, on the insurance policy, is it worth it as an insurance policy?
SEN. PAT ROBERTS: Well, the premium--you don't want the premium--you don't want the premium to exceed the benefits of an insurance policy. We passed a brand new farm bill in the last session of Congress. It got rid of subsidies. It gives the farmer the opportunity for less reliance on fertilizer and chemicals and energy and all the things that Joe is talking about. We're making dramatic progress. And we're going to feed probably a doubling of the population on the same farm ground through high tech and precision agriculture without all of this, without all of this.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: And just that kind of technological progress says to me that we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the farmers can be doing just as well, maybe better, because they won't have to face the consequences of global warming.
SEN. PAT ROBERTS: Not with any mandate that says you can't have a diesel tractor.
MARGARET WARNER: All right, gentlemen. We're going to leave it there. Thank you both very much.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: Thank you.