My parents taught me that it is better to say up front that you are not going to do something than to promise to do it and then not follow through. I use this common anecdote in explaining America's refusal to ratify the Kyoto Treaty to Europeans who brag—all high and mighty—about their commitment to reducing greenhouse gases (and, of course, imply that we—as a country—are the boorish, inconsiderate roommate of this planet.)
I've been following this issue for a while, watching as it has been becoming more and more apparent that the “first world” signatories to this treaty would not be able to live up to their promises. It seems that the EU—led by Germany—have almost totally backed out of their commitment; their “actual reductions might be as trivial as 4%” reports The Wall Street Journal.
So it looks like, collectively, we are the “good son” after all; when ask to step up to an impossible task, we simply said “sorry, we can't do it.”
I suppose the rebuttal would be: “at least Europe tried to make a difference,” to which I would ask did American business, innovators, and local government not try?