WASHINGTON, D.C. — In the run-up to the June 6-8 G-8 summit in Germany, President Bush created big news, the real surprise of which was completely missed by most other world media: After almost three decades of not talking with Iran, the Bush Administration has indirectly created a remarkable opening for serious talks with the Islamic Republic.
For all the talk about Mr. Bush’s proposals representing a “Trojan Horse” designed to hollow out the Kyoto Protocol, little did anyone suspect that a diplomatic breakthrough with the Islamic Republic would occur — thanks to its plentiful greenhouse gas emissions.
The major surprise in Mr. Bush’s new environmental strategy was contained in his announcement proposing a conference of the world’s 15 largest greenhouse gas emitters.
Club of the Dirty
The list of participants contains a lot of the "usual suspects." First, there is the United States, which emitted nearly 5.8 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2003 — more than India, Japan, Germany, Canada, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Italy and Mexico combined.
According to the UN's Millennium Development Indicators, though, the Greenhouse Gas 15 also includes a surprise member of the Club of the Dirty: Iran. In fact, the United States’ long-time nemesis comes in at 12th place among the world’s top carbon dioxide emitters. With emissions totaling 382 million metric tons, it ranks ahead of France, South Africa and Australia.
Thus, while the Bush Administration has been loathe to engage in diplomacy with Iran over that country's nuclear activities, it appears eager — through the environmental backdoor — to negotiate with the Islamic Republic when it comes to the issue of global climate change.
That is a significant expansion of the current remit of bilateral conversations, which are strictly limited to matters of Iraq. Considering that the United States broke off formal diplomatic relations with Iran in 1979, it is also a departure from nearly 30 years of U.S. policy.
|Top CO2 Emitters (thousand metric tons)|
| ||Data Source: United Nations Statistics Division. Figures as of 2003.|