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Seal the Deal or Sell It? U.N.'s High-Pressure Green Game

The effort to sign a new, multitrillion-dollar greenhouse gas reduction treaty in Copenhagen next month has hit a wall, but that isn't slowing down the United Nations.

An intense lobbying effort led by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in favor of the treaty is still pushing full steam ahead, under the campaign slogan "Seal the Deal! Power green growth. Protect the planet." In the process, the U.N. is mobilizing civic action groups around the world, proselytizing children and encouraging major international news media to work from scripts written by the U.N. itself.

"This is the moment to keep up the pressure," exhorted Janos Pasztor, head of Ban's "climate change support team," before an audience of environmentalist organizations at the U.N. last week. "We need to act and we need to act soon!" He added: "You have a huge role to play."

Pasztor's exhortations are part of the U.N.'s fallback position, as it became clear that the world's rich and poor nations can't agree on how to manage the staggering costs and disruptive economic impact of a new climate deal to replace the Kyoto Accords on greenhouse gas reduction, which expire in 2012.

But U.N. bureaucrats still want Copenhagen to produce a non-binding "political agreement" — Pasztor calls it "robust" — among the world's governments on the need for drastic measures to cope with "climate change." The hope is that additional negotiations will still set the stage for a full-fledged and legally binding climate agreement deal a few months later.

To make that happen, Pasztor told the environmental enthusiasts, governments "have to feel pressure put on them. Make sure you pull out all the plugs!"

The United Nations' continued lobbying effort to Seal the Deal at Copenhagen is loud, unconstrained — and, as Pasztor's exhortations make clear, a major effort at the international manipulation of public opinion. It is also a major contradiction of the claim usually made by Secretary General Ban and the top officials of an array of U.N. funds, agencies and programs, that they are merely international civil servants who carry out the wishes of their national government membership, especially when the efforts are misplaced or go awry.

In the case of Seal the Deal, the "neutral" civil servants are openly leading the charge, starting with Ban himself, and using the argument that the "climate change" issue has become too important for anyone to stand on the sidelines while the planet's future is at stake.

Moreover, the U.N.'s official Seal the Deal effort is only the tip of a massive publicity campaign that ranges around the globe and has enlisted Hollywood producers and stars, among others, in the effort, as well as galvanizing a proliferating array of civilian and media cross-partnerships to lobby and propagandize on behalf of the Copenhagen treaty.

Another key part of the strategy is to draw international news media much more deeply into the cause. Case in point: a meeting in Paris on Sept. 4 and 5, organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and entitled "The First International Conference on Broadcast Media and Climate Change."

Nearly 300 people representing more than 100 broadcasting organizations and broadcasting unions attended the gathering. They ranged from the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters to the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, with many large and small networks, mostly from the developing world, in between. But the group also included representatives of some of the biggest state-owned broadcasting institutions in the West, including the BBC and the BBC World Service Trust, its charitable arm; and the French, German and Japanese broadcasting systems, as well as a vast flotilla of diplomats and U.N. bureaucrats.

Click here to see the list of attendees.

At the meeting's end, and with Copenhagen only three months away, the group issued a statement declaring that "dedicated collaboration among broadcast media to share and disseminate climate change information that incorporates both global and local perspectives would encourage individuals and policy makers to undertake timely action."

Among other things, the group asked the U.N. and all its branches to support "all broadcasters, regional broadcasting unions and international broadcasting organizations" in strengthening "regional and international collaboration" to "optimize the quality and relevance of reporting on climate change." It also invited broadcasting unions and other associations of broadcasters to make "quantifiable commitments to increase the availability of content on climate change," as well as commitments to major coverage of the Copenhagen Conference.

Click here to read their declaration.

The centerpiece of Seal the Deal is ostensibly a worldwide petition under Ban's auspices that will be presented on behalf of what the U.N. calls "civil society" — in fact, a host of environmental and other groups that have achieved some degree of U.N. recognition—to an assembly of national governments at Copenhagen, as a sign of popular demand for a tough new climate bargain. That presentation will be bolstered by the presence of literally thousands of non-governmental organizations, youth groups and industrial lobbyists — in short, a crescendo of climate concern, which Pasztor told FOX News that the U.N. is "mobilizing" around the world.

A recent inspection of the official Seal the Deal Web site showed that about 384,500 people had signed up for the petition — about half as many as the number of voters (700,000) who registered last year in Rhode Island for the presidential elections.

According to Pasztor, the campaign is being conducted by the U.N. on an agency-by-agency basis; he did not provide a roster of the full extent of U.N. lobbying efforts, but suggested that Fox News query the U.N.'s sprawling array of organizations individually to determine their Seal the Deal activities.

In fact, according to one document obtained by Fox News, the Seal the Deal campaign is carefully coordinated with a group made up of 27 heads of U.N. agencies, funds and programs known as the U.N. Chief Executives Board for Coordination, or CEB, which Ban chairs. According to the document, the U.N.'s campaign efforts are also being catalogued at a centralized information center maintained by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) which is headquartered in Nairobi.

According to the document, dated May 21, 2009, U.N. agencies will "be able to upload news, articles, videos, discussion topics, publications and various other online components" as part of the campaign coordination.

Click here to read the document.

Moreover, that U.N. effort is linked to lobbying campaigns by a host of environmentalists, trade unions, anti-free-trade activists, peace organizations, native rights proponents and other groups, often themselves buttressed by U.N. support.

Seal the Deal thus offers intriguing insights into the complex and self-interested ties and partnerships that have grown up over recent decades between U.N. branches and "civil society," meaning non-government organizations that support, proselytize for and sometimes actually implement parts of the U.N.'s agenda on the ground.

Seal the Deal, for example, is listed as a partner in a mammoth Copenhagen lobbying effort called Tck Tck Tck (imitating the sound of a ticking clock), a lobbying network that proclaims "The World Is Ready" and displays the Copenhagen conference logo and a Copenhagen countdown clock prominently on its Web site. Tck Tck Tck also displays a button for Global Citizens for Climate Action, which leads to another sign-on page where those interested can declare "I am ready for our leaders to sign a global climate deal in Copenhagen that is ambitious, fair and binding." The site claims that nearly 3.4 million people have signed on.

Along with Seal the Deal, the Tck Tck Tck Web site says its partners include the Global Humanitarian Forum (a private foundation established by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan), the radical environmental action group Greenpeace, and an organization known as the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP). GCAP, which lists no officials or directors on its Web site, in turn calls itself "the world's largest civil society movement calling for an end to poverty and inequality," and claims to be a network of activist alliances that calls, among other things, for international debt forgiveness and meeting U.N. development goals.

The Seal the Deal logo, and an invitation to sign Secretary General Ban's climate petition, also figure prominently on the Web site of a UNEP program aimed at youth and children, known as the Tunza Network. Tunza, the site says, means "to treat with care and affection," in Swahili.

The Tunza network is part of a UNEP program that was originally set in place in 2003, as part of a "long-term strategy on the engagement and involvement of young people in environmental issues," according to a report presented to UNEP's governing council early in November. All told, the U.N. agency says it now reaches out to more than 30,000 youth and children's organizations in more than 180 countries, communicating directly with them through electronic list-server networks, and is looking for more funding to further support the effort.

Click here to read the youth report.

Another button on the same UNEP youth site leads to a members-only Unite for Climate page that bills itself as an "online community of young people and organizations from all around the world working together on Climate Change." No membership numbers are cited. A companion Unite for Climate page funded by UNICEF that is not closed to the general public announces a host of events, and include such headlines as "How are UNICEF's Children's Climate Forum and United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP15) related?"

The partners of Unite for Climate, according to its Web site, include Tunza, the World Meteorological Organization, which is the U.N.'s weather-watching agency, the Earth Institute at Columbia University (whose director, Jeffrey Sachs, is a special advisor to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon), the United Nations Development Program, the Copenhagen lobbying network Tck Tck Tck — and Seal the Deal.

According to the UNEP Web site, the authority behind Tunza is the Outreach Department of UNEP's Division of Communications and Public Information (DCPI) in Nairobi, where a multimedia Web site features a glossy Seal the Deal video warning of the dire consequences of climate inaction ("our forests will turn into deserts").

The video was produced by Hollywood Director Jeffrey Nachmanoff, who co-wrote the apocalyptic catastrophe epic "The Day After Tomorrow," centered on an instantaneous global freeze brought on by global warming. (The movie was produced and distributed by 20th Century Fox, a News Corp. company, which also is the parent company of Fox News.) The video features actor Don Cheadle and environmentalist Philippe Cousteau Jr., along with the president of the Maldive Islands, which claim to be threatened with inundation by rising sea levels as a result of "climate change."

Other buttons on the Web site extol a UNEP sponsored program known as REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) which ultimately is intended to transfer billions of dollars to poor countries in exchange for a promise to prevent their forests from being cut down, and an array of other climate-centered videos, podcasts and posters.

The director of UNEP's communications and public information division is Satinder Bindra, a former CNN correspondent, who, according to the May 1 document obtained by Fox News, is also apparently the coordinator of U.N. data bases on the Seal the Deal campaign.

Bindra is, unsurprisingly, an enthusiastic proponent of getting the climate change message across in mainstream media. So much so, that he was quoted as offering attendees at an October conference of the International Federation of Environmental Journalists free use of U.N. and UNEP films, videos and other products without acknowledgement or use of U.N. branding. (Binder's remarks were quoted in the Web site of a board member of TVE Asia Pacific, a non-profit broadcast foundation.)

In other words, the U.N. was willing to let journalists pass off its commissioned work as part of their own.

The International Federal of Environmental Journalists is also involved with a partnership named Com+, on an initiative forbiddingly known as "Bringing Sustainable Development Closer to the People through Mainstream and Civil Society Media Networks." The initiative aims to encourage "environmental journalists around the world to produce in-depth, independent articles on sustainable development key issues" in Spanish, English and French. Com+ partners, along with other media networks, then distribute the articles on a global basis.

Com+ describes itself as an "alliance of communicators for sustainable development," founded after the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. Its founding partners include the BBC, the United Nations-sponsored Global Environment Facility (an environmental financing vehicle), UNEP, the World Bank, and a television distribution and production firm called TVE, also known as the Television Trust for the Environment.

According to a reference on UNEP's website, UNEP is not only a partner of TVE. The U.N. agency was a co-founder of the network in 1984.

Among other things, TVE is the producer of "Earth Report," a half-hour weekly show transmitted on the BBC World News to 170 countries. Sponsors of "Earth Report," including firms like Toyota, have sometimes funneled their "Earth Report" contributions through UNEP. Among TVE's other productions is "Champions of the Earth," a series on environmentalists honored by UNEP. One of TVE's trustees is Satinder Bindra of UNEP. Another is Anna Tibaijuka, head of the U.N. housing organization HABITAT, which shares its Nairobi headquarters with UNEP.

When it comes to "quanitifiable commitments to increase the availability of content on climate change," the U.N. also likes to stand on both sides of the equation. The U.N.'s partnership with various television production firms, broadcasters and distributors, in particular, has become almost symbiotic when it comes to "climate change" — especially with Copenhagen approaching.

Case in point: a six-part, half-hour series called "Road to Copenhagen," which is appearing on the European and Asian networks of CNBC, from Oct. 12 to Nov. 21. The series "follows a variety of companies, NGOs and other global stakeholders" in the walkup to "the most significant global climate conference since 1997." The series, as described on the Web site of Back2back Productions, a British production company, is produced by "Global Initiatives in partnership with UNEP, the Climate Consortium and Back2Back Productions."

But that is only the beginning of the U.N.'s media links to the series. Global Initiatives, according to its Web site, "promotes positive social change and sustainable global development through international events and media projects."

The main project on its Web site is Seal the Deal. Based in Singapore, Global Initiatives also says it produces television programming in 20 countries worldwide. Its "supporting organizations" partners include UNEP, the United Nations Global Compact (an organization devoted to linking private corporations with U.N. objectives), and the World Bank, which is also a U.N. institution. Other "supporting organizations", along with CNBC, are CNN and Agence France Presse.

(For its part, the other "Road to Copenhagen" partner, the Climate Consortium, is listed on another Web site as a "public-private partnership between the Danish State and five business organizations" — the hosts, in other words, of the Copenhagen conference.)

One intriguing question is how much the Seal the Deal campaign, and the U.N.'s other pro-Copenhagen exercises, actually cost. The answer is not forthcoming. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's office did not respond to a series of questions from Fox News about the cost of Seal the Deal, the number of specific initiatives involved, where the money to support the campaign was coming from, who was coordinating the campaign, or the extent to which private sector organizations or the U.N. Global Compact was involved.

When queried by Fox News about the cost of the campaign, the Secretariat's Janos Pasztor said that it "was conducted as part of the Secretariat's regular activities. There was no special core budget allocated." The basic budget of the U.N. Secretariat's Department of Public Information, however, is very substantial: about $189 million for the biennium 2008-2009.

Neither do UNEP budget records break out any costs for Seal the Deal, though they reveal that the "core" budget of the Department of Communications and Public Information is about $9.5 million for the biennial 2008-2009. But the core budget does not reflect a vast array of trust funds under UNEP control, which are donated by various countries, institutions and the private sector, and which can be used for a variety of purposes.

George Russell is executive editor of Fox News.