Secret Climate Pact and IPCC Chairman

July 27th, 2005

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Several news agencies are reporting today that the United States is involved in a “secret” climate pact with Australia and a few other countries. Reuters reports,

“The world’s top polluter, the United States, is set to unveil a pact to combat global warming by developing energy technology aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions, officials and diplomats said on Wednesday. China and India, whose burgeoning economies comprise a third of humanity, as well as Australia and South Korea are also part of the agreement to tackle climate change beyond the Kyoto protocol.”

While there will be plenty of opportunity to discuss the pluses and minuses of the proposal, I find it very interesting and somewhat puzzling to see that the pact has already been endorsed by Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the IPCC. Here is how he is quoted by Reuters:

“I think it is a good idea because the development of these technologies is important and I’ve always said there has to be a partnership between North and South in these technologies. This is one way of working together,” said Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “It does not interfere with the Kyoto protocol,” he said.”

I’m not sure how he comes to the conclusion that it does not interfere with Kyoto. Of course it doea. Here is how Australia’s environment minister characterized the agreement in the same article:

“Australian Environment Minister Ian Campbell said on Wednesday that the five countries had been quietly working on the pact for months. “It’s quite clear the Kyoto protocol won’t get the world to where it wants to go … We have got to find something that works better — Australia is working on that with partners around the world,”"

And the United States is clearly looking to move “post-Kyoto”. This new pact is clearly being offered to move beyond Kyoto, and as such presents an alternative strategy to Kyoto going forward.

Irrespective of the merits of the new climate pact, it seems irresponsible at best for the chairman of the IPCC to take a public advocacy position on it, one way or the other. There are plenty of venues for political advocacy on climate, but as we have argued here before, the IPCC ought not be among them.

5 Responses to “Secret Climate Pact and IPCC Chairman”

  1. Steve Bloom Says:

    I suspect Pachauri sees Kyoto not in terms of any specific goals but rather as a mechanism ro get international agreement and movement on climate change. Any international agreement that moves things forward, even if it’s only in the research area for now and even if there’s an argument that a technical conflict exists between it and Kyoto, is a help. Getting India and China to rake any kind of first step is also a good thing. Notwithstanding all of the immediate frustrations with the Bush regime, in the larger picture of the effort to deal with anthropogenic climate change it is after all just one administration. It will be replaced soon enough by another that, based on the trend in public attitudes, will likely be much more amenable to action. Look at how much the public debate in the U.S. has advanced since, e.g., just ten years ago during the first Clinton administration (which notwithstanding Al Gore was rather long on talk and short on action). It also seems to me to be perfectly appropriate for Pachauri as IPCC head to applaud whatever progress is being made. I frankly don’t see the downside.

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  3. Roger Pielke, Jr. Says:

    A somewhat different spin to Dr. Pachauri’s comments here:

    ““If it means actual technology transfer, it is useful but it should not undermine the Kyoto Protocol that has been agreed the world over as the mechanism to tackle climate change,” said R K Pachauri, Chairman, United Nations’ Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change.”

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  5. Ender Says:

    The downside is that without measurable targets the Australia can actually increase its emissions. It can set its targets after it sees what it actually achieves. I mean if it achieves at 10% increase as long as it says its target was to reduce its increase from 20% to 10% the it can say that Australia met its goal.

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  7. Mark A Gray Says:

    A disappointing effort from the Australian Government. There is some irony to be appreciated. Australia might be amongst some of the first major industrialised countries to be currently feeling the early effects of global climate change. We have a 30 year history now of decreasing rainfall along the southern coastline – where all the major population centers are located. Recent reports from within the Australian Government have been released warning of this and other dire consequences in the next 30-50 years.

    On the other hand I dare say that whether Australia meets some contrived goal is largely symbolic with respect to global changes.

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  9. kevin vranes Says:

    another FWIW comment-as-trackback:,-stupid-justifications.html