“The United States fully intends to be the world’s preeminent leader in protecting the global environment. [E]nvironmental protection makes growth sustainable…. [This] recognition … by leaders from around the world is the central accomplishment of this important [United Nations] Rio Conference.”
– George H. W. Bush, “News Conference in Rio de Janeiro, June 13, 1992.
“Bush restored federal subsidies to the Carter-era renewable-energy and energy-efficiency programs that had been cut under Reagan. All-Things-to-All-People Bush also signed the Clean Air Act of 1990, which took the acid-rain scare at face value, a signal about his openness toward the global-warming issue to come.”
– Robert Bradley, Enron Ascending: The Forgotten Years (2018), p. 332.
In “This is when the GOP turned away from Climate Policy, E&E News recalled the good ol’ days when George H. W. Bush signed the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. In fact, the lack-of-“vision thing” President attended an anti-capitalist, anti-industrial confab at the urging of Enron CEO Ken Lay and certain staff and cabinet members.
As the E&E News retrospective stated:
[Climate scientist James] Hansen said Bush pushed forward with the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, which was a meaningful step forward at the time, and one that President Clinton and the younger Bush neglected to push ahead on.
“The Framework Convention on Climate Change, the product of Rio in 1992, was exactly the right response to all that was revealed in the 1980s,” Hansen said in an interview yesterday. “The elder Bush deserves much credit for that….”
Bush was immersed in a tough campaign, which he would ultimately lose, when he bucked members of his party and spoke at the Earth Summit in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro. Bush said he had come with a climate plan in hand. It would focus on energy efficiency, forestry, new technologies and clean air.
He signed an agreement to create a “framework convention on climate change” — the U.N. body that would go on to become the UNFCCC.
“I invite my colleagues from the industrialized world to join in a prompt start on the convention’s implementation,” Bush said. “Let us join in translating the words spoken here into concrete action to protect the planet.”
Bush pledged environmental funding to poorer nations. “We come to Rio recognizing that the developing countries must play a role in protecting the global environment but will need assistance in pursuing these cleaner growth,” he said.
But then, his administration did little to follow through with those pledges or to fight for something more concrete than a framework. In the end, Bush balked at the most meaningful part of the Rio gathering — setting specific emissions reduction targets.
Twenty-six years later, with daily shrillness coming from the 23rd UN climate conference in Poland, all while Paris deals with riots triggered by a climate tax, we are paying for US participation in an anti-energy agenda of all pain, no gain. It is this quagmire that President Trump, courageously, is out to reverse.
In my just-published Ascending Enron: The Forgotten Years (chapter 7, pp. 332–33) I explained Bush’s 1992 decision as follows:
Getting Bush to Rio
President Bush was a moderate Republican, not the second coming of Ronald Reagan. When it came to environmental issues, Bush the elder wanted applause from the green-colored intelligentsia and media. And some of his trusted advisors, such as EPA head William Reilly and White House Counsel C. Boyden Gray, liked the progressive nature of the global-warming issue.
Bush restored federal subsidies to the Carter-era renewable-energy and energy-efficiency programs that had been cut under Reagan. All-Things-to-All-People Bush also signed the Clean Air Act of 1990, which took the acid-rain scare at face value, a signal about his openness toward the global-warming issue to come.
Bush needed a push on climate given the tepid support or outright hostility of his political party. It came from Bush’s go-to business executive on energy and related environmental issues, Ken Lay, whom Bush had appointed to advisory committees with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Commerce. Lay was chosen for the President’s Commission on Environmental Quality as well.
Lay’s embrace of climate-policy activism made him a natural to be chosen as the founding chairman of the Business Council for a Sustainable Energy Future (1992), later Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE). The group was composed of firms out to benefit from CO2 regulation. Joining Lay in leadership roles were Arkla CEO Thomas “Mack” McLarty, soon to become White House Chief of Staff in the Clinton administration; Michael Baly, head of the American Gas Association; and Senator Tim Wirth (D-CO). The Business Council’s advisory panel was headed by Christopher Flavin, vice president of research at Worldwatch Institute, whose work was central to the sustainability views of Lay. 
 The BCSE evolved out of a joint study published by the American Gas Association, the Alliance to Save Energy, and the Solar Industries Association, titled An Alternative Energy Future (April 1992). The legwork for the Council was done by Enron’s Bruce Stram. See chapter 13, pp. 000–000.