WikiLeaks climate change cables expand pattern of abusive power relations vs. reality

by: Paul Rosenberg

Mon Dec 06, 2010 at 18:00

The Cancun climate talks seem to be happening in a media vacuum, as Democracy Now! reported today:

Amy Goodman reports from the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Cancún, Mexico, where the media center is eerily quiet. [There was no one else in the media center when the broadcast segment began.] At last year's climate meeting in Copenhagen, the room was buzzing with thousands of reporters. However, today climate change seems to be a forgotten story. Democracy Now! reviewed the transcripts of last week's evening news broadcasts on ABC, CBS and NBC in the United States. The Cancún talks were not mentioned a single time.

But over the weekend, WikiLeaks released cables dealing with US spying, bribing and bullying around the Copenhagen talks last year. A story from The Guardian began:

WikiLeaks cables reveal how US manipulated climate accord
Embassy dispatches show America used spying, threats and promises of aid to get support for Copenhagen accord

Hidden behind the save-the-world rhetoric of the global climate change negotiations lies the mucky realpolitik: money and threats buy political support; spying and cyberwarfare are used to seek out leverage.

The US diplomatic cables reveal how the US seeks dirt on nations opposed to its approach to tackling global warming; how financial and other aid is used by countries to gain political backing; how distrust, broken promises and creative accounting dog negotiations; and how the US mounted a secret global diplomatic offensive to overwhelm opposition to the controversial "Copenhagen accord", the unofficial document that emerged from the ruins of the Copenhagen climate change summit in 2009.

Negotiating a climate treaty is a high-stakes game, not just because of the danger warming poses to civilisation but also because re-engineering the global economy to a low-carbon model will see the flow of billions of dollars redirected.

Seeking negotiating chips, the US state department sent a secret cable on 31 July 2009 seeking human intelligence from UN diplomats across a range of issues, including climate change. The request originated with the CIA. As well as countries' negotiating positions for Copenhagen, diplomats were asked to provide evidence of UN environmental "treaty circumvention" and deals between nations....

The Guardian goes on to provide a remarkably frank description of the US's strategic position and goals--remarkably unchanged since the Bush Administration, and remarkably tightly linked to the views of the fossil fuel lobby:

Paul Rosenberg :: WikiLeaks climate change cables expand pattern of abusive power relations vs. reality
The Beijing talks failed to lead to a global deal at Copenhagen. But the US, the world's biggest historical polluter and long isolated as a climate pariah, had something to cling to. The Copenhagen accord, hammered out in the dying hours but not adopted into the UN process, offered to solve many of the US's problems.

The accord turns the UN's top-down, unanimous approach upside down, with each nation choosing palatable targets for greenhouse gas cuts. It presents a far easier way to bind in China and other rapidly growing countries than the UN process. But the accord cannot guarantee the global greenhouse gas cuts needed to avoid dangerous warming. Furthermore, it threatens to circumvent the UN's negotiations on extending the Kyoto protocol, in which rich nations have binding obligations. Those objections have led many countries - particularly the poorest and most vulnerable - to vehemently oppose the accord.

The pattern of behavior here is strikingly similar to the Obama approach to "health care reform"--cut deals with the powers that be, then bully everyone else into line, making the process up as you go.  Poor island nations on the verge of extinction proved especially vulnerable prey:

Getting as many countries as possible to associate themselves with the accord strongly served US interests, by boosting the likelihood it would be officially adopted. A diplomatic offensive was launched. Diplomatic cables flew thick and fast between the end of Copenhagen in December 2009 and late February 2010, when the leaked cables end.

Some countries needed little persuading. The accord promised $30bn (£19bn) in aid for the poorest nations hit by global warming they had not caused. Within two weeks of Copenhagen, the Maldives foreign minister, Ahmed Shaheed, wrote to the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, expressing eagerness to back it.

By 23 February 2010, the Maldives' ambassador-designate to the US, Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed, told the US deputy climate change envoy, Jonathan Pershing, his country wanted "tangible assistance", saying other nations would then realise "the advantages to be gained by compliance" with the accord.

A diplomatic dance ensued. "Ghafoor referred to several projects costing approximately $50m (£30m). Pershing encouraged him to provide concrete examples and costs in order to increase the likelihood of bilateral assistance."

The Maldives were unusual among developing countries in embracing the accord so wholeheartedly, but other small island nations were secretly seen as vulnerable to financial pressure....

Another set of targets were the increasingly independent South American countries.  Today, Democracy Now! interviewed Pablo Solón, Bolivia's ambassador to the UN. I quote at some length, because we Americans are so rarely exposed to the viewpoints of people like this, whom we have shared this hemisphere with for centuries:

AMY GOODMAN: Secret diplomatic cables released by the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks have revealed new details about how the U.S. manipulated last year's climate talks in Copenhagen.... Several of the memos addressed Bolivia's opposition to the U.S.-backed accord. One cable from the U.S. embassy in Brussels describes a meeting this January between European Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard and White House adviser Michael Froman. The memo states, quote, "Hedegaard responded that we will need to work around unhelpful countries such as Venezuela or Bolivia. Froman agreed that we will need to neutralize, co-opt or marginalize these and others such as Nicaragua, Cuba, Ecuador." Soon after that meeting, the U.S. cut off millions of dollars in environmental aid money to Bolivia and Ecuador.

Bolivia's president Evo Morales is also criticized in the leaked cables for organizing the World Peoples Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in April. John Creamer, the chargé d'affaires at the U.S. embassy in Bolivia, writes, quote, "Bolivia is already suffering real damage from the effects of global warming, but Morales seems to prefer to score rhetorical points rather than contribute to a solution. This radical position won him plaudits from anti-globalization groups, but has alienated many developed nations and most of Bolivia's neighbors," he wrote.

Well, to talk more about the WikiLeaks cables on the international climate negotiations and Bolivia, as well as the talks here in Cancún, we're joined by Pablo Solón, Bolivia's ambassador to the United Nations. He's holding a news conference today in Cancún....

Before we go on talking about these talks, I wanted to ask you about these WikiLeaks cables.... You've just heard some of the quotes from the cables about Bolivia.

PABLO SOLÓN: Yes. I hope that we are not going to have to wait one year until we know really what happened here in Cancún, because what happened in Copenhagen is also happening here in Cancún, because there is a lot of pressure put into countries in order to force them to accept, I would say, a new version of the Copenhagen Accord....

AMY GOODMAN: I want to read for you a part of the text of another leaked cable from John Creamer, the chargé d'affaires of the US embassy in Bolivia, your country. Creamer writes, quote, "Many Bolivians are quick to observe that Morales's climate change campaign is about enhancing his global stature, not about the environment. Former Morales Production Minister and MAS replacement Senator Javier Hurtado said there is a huge gap between Morales' strident, pro-environmental rhetoric in international fora and his domestic emphasis on industrialization as the key to development. The foundation of this effort is large-scale natural gas, iron, and lithium production projects, enterprises that have historically proven extremely damaging to the environment." Your response, Ambassador Solón?

PABLO SOLÓN: Well, I think this WikiLeaks reflects the strategy of the United States against Bolivia. They want to show that Bolivia is not seriously committed to fight climate change. They want to present Bolivia as having a double standard. Of course, that is their strategy. They cannot buy us. They cannot put pressure on us. So they try to sell an image that we say one thing and we do another thing. That is absolutely not true.

Bolivia, of course-and I have always said it-is a country that needs to have industrialization, but a very sustainable industrialization. Why? Because we import in Bolivia almost everything. And they know it. We import nails, paper, everything. So we have to develop some industries. But we cannot follow the same path of development of industrialized countries, because that is unsustainable. The planet cannot accept if we all live like Americans or like Europeans. And we know it, and we want to develop a new model, that we call to live good. So, that is our point of view. But the WikiLeaks show exactly the campaign that the U.S. has developed in order to undermine the Bolivian position in these talks.

Of course, it should go without saying that a country like Bolovia, still heavily dependent on it's raw resources, is faced with contradictions in trying to develop a sustainable economy for the long run. But rather than trying to work cooperatively with such countries, the US is working to use their contradictions against them, to hem them in, humiliate and deligimate them if it cannot simply buy them. This is, of course, the exact opposite of the "collaborate with everyone, talk with everyone" pretense that Obama preaches when the spotlights are on.  If you read OpenLeft, or listen to Democracy Now!, you already know something of these contradictions between US lipservice and the skullduggery behind the scenes.  But the WikiLeaks State Department cable dump helps enormously to fill in the blanks about what's going on.  

As a further commentary on this, Democracy Now! spoked with Bill McKibben in a web exclusive, where he said:

Some of the new data coming out today makes it clear that everyone's suspicion that the U.S. was both bullying and buying countries into endorsing their do-little position on climate were even sort of worse than we had realized. You know, the sums that people were tossing around and the demands that they were making of small nations, in particular, to endorse their stand were pretty-were pretty gross, not because it comes as any great surprise that we toss our power around-that's what we do-but because on this issue, above all else, you know, in the end, making some political agreement enforcing our particular set of interests is such a bad idea, because it's physics and chemistry that are actually driving the tune. And we can, you know, win every fight because we're powerful and wealthy and whatever, and we're still going to lose the war just as badly as everybody else.

And so the Bush/Obama war against reality continues to spread.

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Assange arrested in UK  


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky


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