A grassroots Wisconsin group took issue this week with former Gov. and U.S. Senate candidate Tommy Thompson’s record on property rights, saying his recent rhetoric doesn’t match his deeds as governor.
The group, known as the Wisconsin 9/12 Project, is actively opposed to what is commonly referred to as Agenda 21, a broad-based United Nations’ initiative that seeks to bind nations to certain political commitments and objectives, either by treaty or international law. According to the UN website, Agenda 21 is a “comprehensive plan of action to be taken globally, nationally and locally by organizations of the United Nations System, Governments, and Major Groups in every area in which humans impact on the environment.”
However, opponents say it is unfettered globalism that undercuts national identity, representative government and constitutional sovereignty, as well as property rights.
As a Senate candidate, Thompson has aggressively attacked Agenda 21 on the campaign trail. He blasted it in a June 4 Tea Party speech, Politifact reported, and this week the Wisconsin 9/12 Project pointed to the former governor’s rejection of its aims at a candidate forum in Milwaukee, casting its goals as anti-property rights.
But, says the group’s organizer, Kirsten Lombard, as governor Thompson not only supported Agenda 21 but signed a pact committing the state to some of its central goals.
The Wisconsin 9/12 Project points to Thompson’s signing of a memorandum of understanding with the German State of Bavaria in 1998. That pact, Lombard says, is an agreement to pursue mutual projects and aims within the framework Agenda 21’s policy goals.
“We are also keenly aware of the policies he thereafter actively helped to advance – policies that to this day seriously undermine property rights and other constitutional freedoms,” Lombard said. “Regrettably, the damage didn’t stop when Thompson left the governor’s office. It’s ongoing. We would certainly love to see Thompson openly acknowledge his past actions and the profoundly detrimental effects in which they have resulted.”
So just what did Thompson sign? Did it commit the state to pursuing Agenda 21 goals? What have been the results?
To be sure, the memorandum of understanding did in fact pledge the two states to pursue projects that complied with Agenda 21.
Among other things, the parties agreed “to establish joint projects to promote businesses’ participation in ..... standards according to the principles of performance audits and legal compliance” and “to work on a common international environmental law project in cooperation with the International Environmental Lawyers’ Network (I.E.L.N.) and other competent partners.”
As the Wisconsin 9/12 Project points out, the MOU specifically created the Wisconsin-Bavarian Regulatory Reform Working Partnership, the foundation of which were three chapters of Agenda 21: “That the State of Wisconsin and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Bavarian State Ministry for Regional Development and Environmental Affairs agree, referring to the Agenda 21 (Chapt. 30, 38, 39) and the U.S.-EU New Trans-Atlantic Agenda from December 3rd 1995, to create the Wisconsin-Bavarian Regulatory Reform Working Partnership ....).”
One of the chapters cited in the MOU deals with international institutional agreements outlining the obligations of various nations and states.
“Member States, through relevant governing bodies, are in a position to ensure that these tasks are carried out properly,” that chapter states. “In order to facilitate evaluation of agencies’ performance and promote knowledge of their activities, all bodies of the United Nations system should be required to elaborate and publish reports of their activities concerning the implementation of Agenda 21 on a regular basis. Serious and continuous reviews of their policies, programmes, budgets and activities will also be required.”
In other words, Thompson clearly pledged to implement Agenda 21 in Wisconsin and provide periodic updates on the state’s progress in achieving its goals. Indeed, a Phase One accomplishment report is on the DNR website.
Agenda 21 goals
All of which begs the question, What are the goals of Agenda 21 specifically?
One central element is a commitment to fight fossil fuel emissions, which the document claims is the cause of climate change.
“Energy is essential to economic and social development and improved quality of life,” Agenda 21 states. “Much of the world’s energy, however, is currently produced and consumed in ways that could not be sustained if technology were to remain constant and if overall quantities were to increase substantially. The need to control atmospheric emissions of greenhouse and other gases and substances will increasingly need to be based on efficiency in energy production, transmission, distribution and consumption, and on growing reliance on environmentally sound energy systems, particularly new and renewable sources of energy.”
That philosophy was at the heart of proposed cap-and-trade legislation both on the national level by President Barack Obama and in Wisconsin by Gov. Jim Doyle, who created a global warming task force and produced his own unsuccessful cap-and-trade bill, with significant greenhouse gas emission reductions as its goal.
But though the global warming initiative bloomed under Doyle, the seeds were planted in the DNR’s work stemming from the Bavaria MOU, as the implementation report describes it.
The report states that then DNR secretary George Meyer visited a German fossil fuel generating facility in 1999 and was impressed with the facilties’ engineering, while “(t)he need for a more integrated Wisconsin energy policy became evident in the context of bringing together parties with environmental, energy, regulatory and commercial interests.”
That led to legislation, the report announced, the prelude to Doyle’s later cap-and-trade and climate change proposal.
“The German emphasis on climate change contributed to the forming of legislation, enacted by the Wisconsin Legislature, to create a voluntary emission reduction registry; industries on the trip to Bavaria strongly supported this legislation,” the report stated. “The Air Management Bureau and industry are exploring other voluntary, self-regulatory approaches.”
And if self-regulatory approaches weren’t sufficient, state leaders agreed to support national legislation to force compliance, again in 1999 during Thompson’s tenure as governor.
“On a national level, parties visiting Bavaria agreed to track and conceptually support congressional efforts at reforms that promote efficient and effective approaches to achieving and moving beyond minimal legal compliance with environmental rules,” the implementation report states.
Another aspect of cap-and-trade legislation has been the redistribution of wealth and transfer of power from so-called developed nations that have high carbon-powered economies to developing nations that don’t. Simply put, cap-and-trade transfers both pollution and wealth from one part of the globe to another, and that too has been a central tenet of Agenda 21.
“The developmental and environmental objectives of Agenda 21 will require a substantial flow of new and additional financial resources to developing countries, in order to cover the incremental costs for the actions they have to undertake to deal with global environmental problems and to accelerate sustainable development,” Agenda 21 states. “Financial resources are also required for strengthening the capacity of international institutions for the implementation of Agenda 21.”
Another project signed into law by Doyle but created and piloted by Thompson was so-called Green Tier legislation, the Wisconsin 9/12 project states. Again, the implementation report acknowledges the group’s contention and reveals the intent behind Green Tier, which is to obtain business compliance with state environmental goals, in other words, with Agenda 21.
“Wisconsin developed its Green Tier legislation, using ideas from the Bavaria Pact agreements between government and business, the general partnership approach to achieving state environmental goals and the independent auditing and verifying of performance under the Pact system,” the report states.
To be sure, in an October 2004 speech in Munich, then DNR secretary Scott Hassett acknowledged Green Tier’s genesis in the MOU.
“As you have mentioned, the relationship between Bavaria and Wisconsin under Phase One of our working partnership produced concrete results that proved there were specific deeds behind our words,” Hassett said. “The most important deed, in my view, was the enactment of the Green Tier law which was modeled, in part, after your Bavaria Pact.”
Was Thompson aware of all the implications when he signed the MOU? The Wisconsin 9/12 Project thinks so, and Lombard points to his remarks on the day he signed the agreement.
“The research of the Wisconsin 9/12 Project certainly indicates that Tommy Thompson knew what he was signing in Munich in 1998,” she said.
In those remarks, the former governor certainly acknowledged government’s central role.
“By working together we can, and we will, achieve for our environment and for our economies what no person ... no company ... or no sector could do alone,” Thompson said. “This is not something that government should do alone. The environment is everyone’s job and it’s government’s job to help others do what’s right.”
By verifying compliance to environmental laws and performance to environmental goals, Thompson continued, the “skeptics” would be shown a better, more efficient way.
Richard Moore may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org