John Bruton has a peculiar piece in the Irish Times of last Saturday. He argues that there are so many externalities between nation states that countries should grant their sovereignty to a “new system for global decision making”. Bruton puts climate change forward as his main argument.
Bruton makes two factual mistakes: “The failure of world leaders to come up with a meaningful and binding agreement on climate change at the long-planned meeting in Copenhagen means that the binding, if incompletely applied, agreement in the Kyoto protocol will now expire and will not be replaced in time, if ever.” The targets in the Kyoto Protocol will expire in 2012, and the rest of the Kyoto Protocol has no sunset clause. There are three more major international meetings scheduled before the Kyoto Protocol expires, in 2010 (Mexico City), 2011 (Johannesburg) and 2012 (location to be decided).
He also write that “many in the US Senate are still wedded to the idea that international rules should not bind the United States and should never override US law.” Once ratified, an international treaty is binding in US law, and it is exactly because of this that the US is so reluctant to ratify international treaties. EU countries happily sign up because rules will be ignored if inconvenient — the “growth and stability pact” of the monetary union being a prominent example.
The main flaw in Bruton’s analysis, however, is the apparent assumption that, if the USA and China were to give up their sovereignty over their energy, transport, industrial and agricultural policies, they would follow the European aspirations for a low carbon economy.
If the “new system for global decision making” would be in any way democratic, chances are that Europe would be forced to abandon its visionary climate policy and focus on things that matter now to the majority of the world population, such as clean water, enough to eat, and freedom from infectious disease.
It is our sovereignty that allows our pretensions as planetary saviours.