Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from Greenpeace

  The Foreign Affairs Committee Inquiry covers a very broad spectrum. Greenpeace are experts on environmental matters and therefore contain ourselves to those in which we have such expertise. In this Memorandum, we make observations in respect of two aspects of the relations between the United States and the United Kingdom: the undermining of global security in respect of missile defence; and the failure to adhere to international obligations in respect of the Kyoto Protocol.


  1.  In March of this year President Bush made clear through various public statements that the US Administration would not support ratification or implementation of the Kyoto Protocol. Despite various high-level meetings, including meetings between the US President and the UK Prime Minister, and the EU-US Summit in June, the US has not changed its view.

  2.  The Kyoto Protocol and the Kyoto Process represent the result of a ten-year international effort to lay the foundations for an international regime to combat climate change. Basic elements of the Protocol such as binding targets and timetables, market oriented mechanisms in order to achieve cost effectiveness, a compliance regime and tools for co-operation between developed and developing countries, are of profound importance in a global system aimed at tackling climate change.

  3.  A recent report from the world's top scientists (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or "IPCC") found that "There is new and stronger evidence that most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities"[1] and that "there is high confidence that recent regional changes in temperature have had discernible impacts on many physical and biological systems."[2] In respect of the impacts of climate change, the IPCC has reported, amongst other things, that:

    —  more people will be harmed than will benefit from climate change;

    —  many natural systems are at risk including glaciers, polar and alpine ecosystems, boreal and tropical forests, coral reefs and atolls, mangrove and biodiversity hot spots;

    —  floods, famine, and refugee migrations are very likely as climate change tips the balance in overburdened regions of the African continent;

    —  some of the richest biodiversity on Earth is likely to disappear;

    —  climate change is likely to intensify threats from infectious disease; and

    —  flood patterns will place large portions of Europe at high risk.

  4.  The US has approximately 5 per cent of the world's population, but accounts for the largest single share of global greenhouse gas emissions, about 25 per cent of global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels. Notwithstanding this, the US has stated that they cannot adhere to an agreement that would damage the US economy and which does not place the same demands on developing countries to reduce their emissions. Many domestic US studies have shown that US emissions can be reduced with a real benefit to the US economy. Further, it has been internationally agreed, including by the US, that it is only right and fair that developed countries such as the US and the UK should commit to binding emissions reductions first. There are also mechanisms within the Kyoto Protocol to facilitate the transfer of clean technology to the developing world so that these nations can improve their standard of living and grow their economies without adding to the burden of global emissions.

  5.  The EU has been sharply critical of the US decision not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and has been firm in its own decision to adhere to the Protocol and to ratify the same. Following the EU-US summit on 14 June this year, the Prime Minister of Sweden, then EU President, said in a statement, "The European Union will stick to the Kyoto Protocol and go for a ratification process." The Swedish Environment Minister said that "We regret that President Bush continues to reject the Kyoto Protocol. Abandoning the Kyoto Protocol would mean postponing international action to combat climate change for years—and we are already late. We cannot accept this. The EU ministers have therefore confirmed that they stand firm behind the Kyoto Protocol and are ready to proceed with the ratification of it. Without the US the Protocol will be less effective of course since they account for a large part of world emissions." [3]

  6.  Prime Minister Tony Blair has confirmed the UK's position, for example in this response to an oral question in Parliament: ". . . this country has made its position clear. We continue to believe that the Kyoto Protocol provides the best framework to deal with climate change, which is a problem that affects rich and poor countries alike. It is of vital importance to the future of the world that we deal with that and the reduction of CO2 emissions. We obviously want to hear the views and ideas of the new [US] Administration as to how we reduce those emissions, but for our own part, as I have said before, we think that the Kyoto Protocol is the right way forward."[4]

  7.  On the 23 July this year at the 6th Conference of the Parties, in Bonn, Germany, the international community (with the exception of the United States) agreed the rules for implementation of the Kyoto Protocol. Greenpeace notes that the Kyoto Protocol is one of the key international legal instruments required to balance the expansion (globalisation) of international trade and economic law with environmental sustainability requirements. Rejection of the Kyoto Protocol by the USA could fatally undermine this pillar of international environmental law, should it not enter into force. If it does enter into force without the USA, it would be unfair on other countries (including the UK) if energy intensive businesses in the US were to obtain competitive advantage from an effective subsidy of their pollution.

  8.  The World Trade Organisation is an intergovernmental organisation with 142 member states. Its members are required to comply with the trade rules established in a set of agreements generally termed the WTO Agreements, also resulting from the Uruguay Round. Its agreements provide the ground rules for international commerce. The WTO is intended to serve the private sector, not governments: "Although negotiated and signed by governments, the goal is to help producers of goods and services, exporters, and importers conduct their business." The Uruguay Round and subsequent "sectoral negotiations" added to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) a series of new obligations that extend far beyond trade liberalisation's traditional focus on goods. To enforce these disciplines, the WTO has one of the most potent dispute settlement systems in existence at the international level.

  9.  In all the circumstances it would be appropriate for the UK to bring the US before a WTO dispute settlement panel, because the US position on Kyoto is providing the equivalent of a hidden subsidy for their domestic energy intensive industry, inconsistent with WTO rules.


  10.  US plans to develop a Missile Defence system are not in Britain's security interests. US plans for missile defence risk triggering a dangerous and destabilising arms race with China. Missile defence may make the United States more willing to intervene militarily in future and less likely to pursue diplomatic solutions to conflict. The involvement of British military bases as the "forward eyes" of a missile defence system, would make Britain a target for US enemies seeking to disable US defences.

  11.  The US assessment of the threat from ballistic missiles has overestimated the capability of so-called "rogue states" to target the United States, whilst underestimating the ongoing dangers posed by the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, including the risk that such weapons could fall into the hands of terrorist organisations.

  12.  Missile defences could not have prevented the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. As Senator Joseph Biden said, on the eve of the attacks, "Our real security needs are much more earthbound and far less costly than National Missile Defence . . . the Joint Chiefs say a strategic nuclear attack is less likely than regional conflicts, or major theatre wars, or terrorist attacks at home and abroad. We will have diverted all the money to address the least likely threat while the real threats come into this country in the hold of a ship or the belly of a plane or are smuggled into a city in the middle of the night in a backpack."[5]

  13.  "It should now be obvious to everyone that people who have the fanaticism and capability to fly an airliner laden with passengers and fuel into a skyscraper will not be deterred by human decency from deploying chemical or biological weapons, missiles or nuclear weapons or other forms of mass destruction if these are available to them. We must therefore redouble our efforts to stop the proliferation and the availability of such weapons." (Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs[6]).

  14.  Britain should use its special relationship with the United States to impress upon the Bush Administration the dangers of pursuing missile defence and the need for US support for concerted, international efforts to eliminate nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and their delivery systems.

  15.  US plans for missile defence are already triggering a new, and destabilising nuclear arms race with China, which has the potential to draw in other countries in the region such as India and Pakistan. According to the Pentagon, "China's stated doctrine reportedly calls for a survivable long-range missile force that can hold a significant portion of the U.S. population at risk in a retaliatory strike."[7] China is currently engaged in an aggressive nuclear modernisation programme, aimed at giving it the capability to overcome a potential US missile defence system.

  16.  As the Pentagon puts it, "China currently has over 100 nuclear warheads and is increasing the size, accuracy and survivability of its nuclear missile force . . . However, as its strategic requirements evolve, it may change the pace of its modernisation effort for its nuclear missile force (particularly if the United States deploys NMD)".[8]

  17.  In August 2000, the New York Times also reported that US intelligence chiefs had warned the Clinton administration that, "China would expand its relatively small arsenal of roughly 20 long-range nuclear missiles to a quantity large enough to overwhelm the limited defensive system that the Clinton administration is considering. One person who has seen the report said it estimated that China could deploy up to 200 warheads by 2015, prompting India and Pakistan to respond with their own build ups."[9]

  18.  Most worrying of all, are recent media reports that the Bush administration might seek to overcome Chinese opposition to missile defence by acquiescing with China's plans to build up its nuclear missile force, and the possibility that the United States and China might also discuss resuming underground nuclear tests,[10] despite being signatories to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

  19.  Missile defence is unlikely to operate as a purely defensive measure. Rather, it will be used in combination with US offensive forces, making the US more likely to intervene militarily in future crises. The Bush Administration is pursuing missile defence as part of a military strategy based on "new concepts of deterrence that rely on both offensive and defensive forces".[11] Missile defence would thus be used as a global shield, in conjunction with US offensive forces.

  20.These offensive forces include US nuclear forces, many of which are currently being modernised to fulfil more aggressive warfighting roles. Despite the Bush Administration's rhetoric about cutting nuclear warhead numbers, US nuclear forces remain the largest and most sophisticated in the world. The US Department of Defense is currently considering proposals from Sandia and Los Alamos nuclear weapons laboratories for new, low-yield nuclear weapons with highly accurate delivery systems, so-called mini-nukes, aimed at destroying deeply buried targets.[12] Missile defence is also likely to be used in conjunction with ambitious US plans for the militarisation of space.[13]

  21.  British defence officials have admitted that, "Britain would become a target of `rogue' states" if the government allowed the US to use its bases at Fylingdales and Menwith Hill.[14] According to the Guardian, the Secretary of State for Defence has acknowledged that the possibility of Britain becoming a target is "one of the implications we would have to think through".[15] Visiting Professor at the Centre for Defence Studies, Sir Timothy Garden warns: "The upgraded X-band radar sites would become the forward eyes of an NMD system. They would therefore become the priority targets for any enemy, which wished to penetrate a US NMD system. Nor would an attack on them necessarily be carried out by ballistic missile."[16]

  22.  To date, the Bush Administration has shown scant regard for international law, preferring a strategy of multilateralism "a" la carte". In the last six months, Bush has opposed key items of British Government policy on proliferation of weapons of mass destruction including the rejection of the Biological Weapons Convention protocol, refusal to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and apparent abandonment of Programme of Action for Nuclear Disarmament, agreed at the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in 2000.

  23.  In July 2000 the Foreign Affairs Committee recommended that the Government "articulate the very strong concerns that have been expressed about NMD within the UK,"[17] and urged the Government to "impress upon the US Administration that it cannot necessarily assume unqualified UK co-operation with US plans to deploy NMD in the event of unilateral US abrogation of the ABM Treaty."[18]

  24.  However, instead of making these concerns clear, the Prime Minister at his first summit meeting with President Bush agreed on the "need to obstruct and deter these new threats [from ballistic missiles] with a strategy that encompasses both offensive and defensive systems."[19] Whilst the Government has declined to tell Parliament whether it will grant the US permission to use British bases as part of a missile defence system, the Prime Minister's spokesman indicates that the UK sees US missile defence plans as "a good idea".[20] Similarly, a briefing from the Office of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs states, "Missile Defence is not an alternative to our wider non-proliferation effort, but part of it."[21]


  Greenpeace believes that if the special relationship between the US and the UK has any meaning in the twenty first century, the Government should be prepared to stand up for Britain's interests and to:—

    —  use its influence to ensure the US return to the international fold and agree to meet its international obligations to combat climate change; and

    —  press for redoubled international efforts to strengthen the non-proliferation regimes.

  The Government should:

    1.  Implement the Foreign Affairs Committee recommendation to "articulate the very strong concerns that have been expressed about NMD within the UK."

    2.  Reject any approach from the United States to use bases in the UK as part of the missile defence system.

    2.  Press the United States to support negotiations for a strengthened Biological Weapons Convention verification protocol.

    3.  Lead international efforts to bring the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty into force, including US ratification of the treaty.

    4.  Push for full implementation of the Programme of Action for Nuclear Disarmament, agreed at the 2000 NPT Review Conference.

    5.  Support international efforts to develop and strengthen the Missile Technology Control Regime.

    6.  Support multilateral approaches to preventing the militarisation of space.

    7.  Take all necessary steps to ensure US compliance with the Kyoto Protocol, and if all else fails, bring the US before a WTO dispute settlement panel in respect of their subsidisation of domestic energy intensive industry.


October 2001

1   IPCC Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis, page 10. Back

2   IPCC Climate Change 2001: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, page 4. Back

3   EU Environment Committee press release, 14 June 2001. Back

4   Hansard, 4 April 2001, column 332. Back

5   Senator Joseph Biden Jr (Democrat - Delaware), Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, quoted in Nick Cohen, "Too close for comfort", The Observer, 16 September 2001. Back

6   Hansard, 14 September 2001, column 619. Back

7   US Department of Defense, "Proliferation: Threat and Response", January 2001, page 14. Back

8   Ibid. Back

9   Steven Lee Myers, "U.S. Missile Plan Could Reportedly Provoke China", New York Times, 10 August 2000. Back

10   David E. Sanger, "U.S. To Tell China It Will Not Object To Missile Buildup", New York Times, 2 September 2001. Back

11   President Bush, Speech, National Defense University, 1 May 2001. Back

12   Richard Norton-Taylor, "Size doesn't matter", The Guardian, 25 April 2001. Back

13   James Dao, "Rumsfeld Plans to Seek a Military Strategy Using Outer Space", New York Times, 8 May 2001. Back

14   Richard Norton-Taylor, "UK at risk of 'rogue' reprisals if it gives space to US missile shield", The Guardian, 7 April 2001. Back

15   Richard Norton-Taylor, "Son of Star Wars", Guardian, 19 April 2001. Back

16   Sir Timothy Garden, "Looking at National Missile Defence from Europe", Paper for the Danish Foreign Policy Committee, 25 April 2001. Back

17   House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, Eighth Report, "Weapons of Mass Destruction", HC 407 of 2000-2001. Back

18   HC 407 of 2000-2001. Back

19   Joint Statement by President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair, Camp David, 23 February 2001. Back

20   BBC News Online, "Number 10 in Missile Row", 2 May 2001. Back

21   Memorandum from the Office of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Rt. Hon Jack Straw, 1 August 2001. Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 18 December 2001