In one of the more surreal moments of this year’s U.N. climate change talks, Bush’s chief environmental adviser blamed Russia for the Bush administration’s climate change obstructionism.
The U.S. negotiating team featuring James Connaughton, Paula Dobriansky, and Harlan Watson appeared Thursday evening for a press conference where they largely dodged a series of questions about the last eight years of inaction, obfuscation, and general mayhem. When asked by Fioney Harvey of The Financial Times: “If you look back over the course of the last few years, is there anything you would have done differently or is there anything you wished had happened but didn’t happen?” Connaughton, Bush’s chief environmental adviser, devised a mindbending response:
I wish first that Russia had made its mind up sooner as to whether it was going to join Kyoto or not. I think we lost a couple of years of work while that decision was being made. It almost didn’t matter which way they came out but we lost a couple years until it was decided whether Kyoto would go forward or not. As soon as it was decided that Kyoto would go forward then countries began to face up to the reality of what they needed to do at the national level to work toward meeting those commitments.
Except, of course, Bush didn’t “face up” to any such thing, instead waiting until this year to propose a global warming plan sufficient only in Bizarro World.
The packed crowd outside the press briefing room watching on monitors erupted in hoots and shouts audible inside. Connaughton soldiered on, continuing for over five minutes, in an excursus on eliminating tariffs for technology transfer, getting a common measure on carbon reduction, and other issues that any climate wonk would love. The high point was midway through in a plea for more cooperation:
Everyone has to come together on these things. It would have been nice. I’m just pleased we are where we are today in fact with a work program not just of negotiation but a work program of cooperative action. And I think that could be more aggressive and move faster.
Watson, who also has claimed to “understand the real world,” gave a much shorter, more existential, even zenlike answer: “I take the world as it is. My only regret is that I’m not twenty years younger, maybe a lot taller, and a lot more handsome.”
Indeed. Who wouldn’t have wanted that?