Lawmakers Attempt to Tamper With Senate Jury on Global Warming Treaty

During the Senate impeachment inquiry, Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) warned the White House and his colleagues, “Don’t tamper with this jury.” Today, jury tampering is underway on another important matter before the Senate: Consideration of the Kyoto global warming treaty.

In December 1997, representatives of some 160 nations agreed to a treaty in Kyoto, Japan requiring industrial nations to significantly reduce their greenhouse gas (ghg) emissions. Under the treaty, the U.S. would be required to reduce its emissions by seven percent below the 1990 level by 2012, a real cut of more than 30 percent once population and economic growth are factored in.1

Although President Bill Clinton signed the treaty, the prognosis for Senate ratification has been poor, due largely to industry opposition. In response, the President included provisions in his budget designed to sweeten the Kyoto deal for corporations. For example, his budget included a $273 million program to make building more energy-efficient. This provision may explain why Honeywell, which was recently awarded a Department of Energy contract to work on building efficiency, now supports the treaty. The treaty also included tax credits for consumers purchasing hybrid automobiles. Predictably, Toyota, which just developed a hybrid vehicle operating on gas and electricity, also recently endorsed the treaty.2

The Administration also supports a program known as Early Action Crediting (EAC) to provide incentives for corporations not only to support, but to advocate Kyoto treaty ratification. Under EAC proposals introduced by Senator John Chafee (R-RI) and Representative Rick Lazio (R-NY), the President would be permitted to give companies reducing ghg emissions prior to 2008, when the Kyoto treaty is to take effect, emissions credits that could either be used or sold when Kyoto goes into effect. These emissions credits would essentially serve as permits for a business to emit a specified amount of ghg once the Kyoto treaty goes into effect. The more permits, the more a company could emit.

By granting such credits, corporations would be encouraged to lobby for Kyoto’s ratification because the credits would be worthless without ratification. Early credits are industry’s insurance against the possibility that Kyoto will be ratified. But in buying the insurance, ratification would become more likely. It’s analogous to buying auto insurance to increase your chance of being in a car crash.3

The fact that Congress would even consider legislation that could influence or preordain the outcome of a Senate deliberation should be of great concern to every American.

Ironically, Early Action Crediting would make the chances that the U.S. could comply with the Kyoto treaty, once ratified, unlikely. This is because it would make compliance with Kyoto’s targets more difficult for small businesses and family farms. The reason? Under the Kyoto treaty, developing nations can earn extra emissions credits for reductions occurring prior to 2008, but industrialized nations can’t. In other words, every early credit the President grants would mean one less in the U.S. pool after 2008.4 Since most small businesses lack the political contacts and expertise to negotiate deals with the Clinton Administration and lack the resources to reduce their emissions early, large businesses would garner most of the early credits.5 Thus, the burdens of Kyoto would rise for small firms while dropping for larger ones.

By making compliance more difficult for small firms, early crediting would make it less likely the U.S. could meet the Kyoto targets without sacrificing small business, which creates two-thirds of all new jobs.

An additional weakness of the Chafee/Lazio Early Action Crediting proposals is that they could stimulate the transfer of money from the private sector to the environmental movement, giving environmentalists greater resources to press for Kyoto-style regulations and compromising the integrity of our political process.

Under EAC, third parties would be permitted to monitor corporate emissions reductions. According to the NonProfit Accountability Project (NPAP), the very groups that have pressed for this arrangement are the ones that would profit from them. NPAP notes that the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) was the chief architect of the EAC proposals and that its satellite group, Environmental Resources Trust (with which EDF shares board members), has already negotiated a lucrative contract to provide monitoring services.6

Allowing third parties to monitor emissions could also facilitate environmentalist fundraising by giving corporations the incentive to give generously to environmental groups. If EAC is approved, corporations will be tempted to pay tribute to monitors knowing they are the final arbiters of who does and doesn’t deserve emissions credits. This would compromise not only the integrity of emissions accounting and verification, but our political process.

Senator Byrd was right to insist that jury tampering in the impeachment inquiry not be tolerated. Tampering with the Kyoto treaty jury shouldn’t be tolerated either.


David Ridenour is vice president of The National Center for Public Policy Research. Comments may be sent to [email protected].

Footnotes:1 John Carlisle, National Policy Analysis #233 “White House Tries to Buy Support for Greenhouse Gas Reductions,” The National Center for Public Policy Research, Washington, DC, February 1999.

2 Ibid.

3 Marlo Lewis, “Early Action Crediting: Growing the Kyoto Lobby at Small Business’ Expense,” On-Point Policy Brief, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Washington, DC, February 2, 1999.

4 Ibid.

5 Joel Bucher, “Early Emissions Credits: Subsidizing the Ratification of the Kyoto Protocol,” Capitol Comment, Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation, Washington, DC, March 11, 1999.

6 “Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) Corrupt on Global Warming Policy,” NonProfit Accountability Project, Washington, DC.

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