The Bali Conference – Special Reports to WN + Updates

December 17, 2007

CLIMATE CHANGE: Forward, Hopefully Past the Hurdles
Analysis by Ramesh Jaura
BONN, Dec 17 (IPS) – Despite scepticism about the ‘Bali roadmap’, the international community has come a long way in hammering out a truly global response to the serious threat posed by climate change.
But the global climate diplomacy is faced with several hurdles that must be overcome in the next two years. These involve changing the hearts and minds of the ruling elite in both the developed and developing countries.
As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said, while the developed countries need to “continue to take the lead on curbing emissions,” the Earth’s atmosphere “can’t tell the difference between emissions from an Asian factory, the exhaust from a North American SUV, or deforestation in South America or Africa.”
… The Bali roadmap includes an agenda for the key issues to be negotiated up to 2009. These are: action for adapting to the negative consequences of climate change, such as droughts and floods; ways to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; ways to widely deploy climate-friendly technologies, and financing both adaptation and mitigation measures.

(New York Times editorial) A week that could have brought important progress on climate change ended in disappointment.
In Bali, where delegates from 187 countries met to begin framing a new global warming treaty, America’s negotiators were in full foot-dragging mode, acting as spoilers rather than providing the leadership the world needs.
In Washington, caving to pressures from the White House, the utilities and the oil companies, the Senate settled for a merely decent energy bill instead of a very good one that would have set the country on a clear path to a cleaner energy future.

We’ve been suckered again by the US. So far the Bali deal is worse than

America will keep on wrecking climate talks as long as those with vested
interests in oil and gas fund its political system
George Monbiot, The Guardian
… So why, regardless of the character of its leaders, does the US act this way? Because, like several other modern democracies, it is subject to two great corrupting forces. I have written before about the role of the corporate media – particularly in the US – in downplaying the threat of climate change and demonising anyone who tries to address it. I won’t bore you with it again, except to remark that at 3pm eastern standard time on Saturday, there were 20 news items on the front page of the Fox News website. The climate deal came 20th, after “Bikini-wearing stewardesses sell calendar for charity” and “Florida store sells ‘Santa Hates You’ T-shirt”.
Let us consider instead the other great source of corruption: campaign finance. The Senate rejects effective action on climate change because its members are bought and bound by the companies that stand to lose. When you study the tables showing who gives what to whom, you are struck by two things.
One is the quantity. Since 1990, the energy and natural resources sector – mostly coal, oil, gas, logging and agribusiness – has given $418m to federal politicians in the US. Transport companies have given $355m. The other is the width: the undiscriminating nature of this munificence. The big polluters favour the Republicans, but most of them also fund Democrats. During the 2000 presidential campaign, oil and gas companies lavished money on Bush, but they also gave Gore $142,000, while transport companies gave him $347,000. The whole US political system is in hock to people who put their profits ahead of the biosphere.
So don’t believe all this nonsense about waiting for the next president to sort it out. This is a much bigger problem than George Bush. Yes, he is viscerally opposed to tackling climate change. But viscera don’t have much to do with it. Until the American people confront their political funding system, their politicians will keep speaking from the pocket, not the gut.
Full article

December 15

UN Breakthrough on climate change reached in Bali

 Delegates rise to applaud the decision to adopt the “Bali roadmap” for a future international agreement on climate change

A deal to negotiate on precisely how to fight climate change is finally struck in Bali
(The Economist) AFTER a fortnight of often tortuous negotiations, and an additional day at the end, 190-odd countries have decided that a global agreement involving all countries is needed to tackle climate change. The “Bali roadmap”, named after the Indonesian island where the deal was struck, is an important milestone. Rich, middle-income and poor countries have acknowledged both the threat of a changing climate and the need for urgent action by all. Substantive negotiations will start within weeks to produce an international convention by the end of 2009 on exactly how countries will meet their “common but differentiated responsibilities” to fight climate change.
Although the roadmap does not state it explicitly, on the insistence of the still somewhat sceptical United States, Canada and Japan, the negotiations will be guided by four scientific reports produced this year by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. These concluded that the planet will probably be in serious trouble—rising temperatures, acidic seas and changing rainfall patterns, among other problems—unless global emissions of greenhouse gases peak within 10 to 15 years and then decline thereafter.
There will be four main pillars to the negotiations. Mitigation, or emissions reduction, will be at the heart of the deal. Developed countries, which are historically responsible for the vast majority of greenhouse-gases, will probably have to cut their emissions by as much as 40% by 2020. Developing countries will be expected to pursue more carbon-friendly development strategies. They will also get special financing from industrialised states to help to adapt to the threats of rising seas, more frequent extreme weather events, falling crop yields and increased migration. Finally, technology will be offered to poorer nations to help them to cut their emissions.
Another important decision was to include in the new regime emissions from deforestation and land degradation. These account for 20 per cent of global emissions and were excluded from current mechanisms to obtain financial rewards from reducing emissions. The aim is for the new deal to be ratified by all countries by the end of 2012, when the first phase of the Kyoto protocol expires.

Climate Plan Looks Beyond Bush’s Tenure
(NYT) NUSA DUA, Indonesia — The world’s faltering effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions got a new lease on life on Saturday, as delegates from 187 countries agreed to negotiate a new accord over the next two years — pushing the crucial debates about United States participation into the administration of a new American president.
Many officials and environmental campaigners said American negotiators had remained obstructionist until the final hour of the two-week convention and had changed their stance only after public rebukes that included boos and hisses from other delegates.

December 14
EU accepts compromise proposal
Associated Press
December 14, 2007 at 9:15 PM EST
BALI, Indonesia — The European Union said Saturday it supported a compromise proposal on upcoming negotiations for a new global warming pact, bringing the contentious talks nearer to resolution.
The two week-conference had been marked by a fierce battle between the EU, which had argued for explicit goals for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, and the United States, which said targets should be determined by two years of upcoming talks.
Humberto Rosa, a Portuguese environment official representing the EU, told delegates that the compromise had been brokered in a “good cooperative atmosphere.”
Complete agreement, however, was stalled by objections by India and China to parts of the text, and the conference session with all delegates was briefly suspended. More

Envoys take overnight break as Bali conference extended
International envoys at the UN climate conference took an overnight break early Saturday as they worked to resolve a dispute over future cutbacks in greenhouse gases.
Yvo de Boer, the UN climate chief, said late Friday from Bali the talks were going “slower than I had expected” but that he thought the conference was “on the brink of agreement.” Talks were extended on Friday as U.S. and European Union negotiators were reportedly close to a compromise that would end a stalemate on how far a new international agreement on future greenhouse gas cutbacks should go.

EU leads last-gasp effort to salvage climate-change deal
Deadlocked UN talks on a timetable for an ambitious global climate change deal went to the wire last night in Bali. With only 24 hours left to secure an agreement, the EU led an unprecedented assault on the US delegation and its refusal to commit to binding targets on greenhouse gas emissions. The Europeans were joined by the Nobel Prize-winner Al Gore in heaping pressure on the US. He appealed to delegates to sign up to the timetable in the belief that a new administration would be in place in Washington in time to complete the process in two years’ time.
With the science “unequivocal” and much of the detail of the road map agreed earlier than expected, the battle has centred on the inclusion of an explicit call for industrialised nations to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by up to 40 per cent. The UK, the EU and much of the developing world want to launch an attempt to arrest the build-up of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere. The opposing camp, led by the US and aided by Canada, wants a two-year timetable for a successor to the Kyoto climate treaty, stripped of all hard numbers.

December 13
Special Report III
It’s reached that point at which the battles become fierce.
After an all-night negotiating session on Tuesday night, the delegates were in the rooms until 10pm again last night. One delegate expressed it well, ‘we cannot go on this way’.
There is a desperation in the air now, at 3pm on Thursday. Things should have been decided two days ago but there are a few sticking points, and the delegates are sticking to their guns. And getting tired, hungry and cranky with no breaks for coffee or even lunch.
It is at this point, when the NGOs are shouting the loudest and the press is hovering outside meeting room doors like vultures (they even perch on high ground), that it becomes most clear to me what the negotiators do. Every single one of them is fighting now, for the outcome they believe to be right. They may be on different sides of the aisle but not a single one of them wants to walk away a failure. Of course success for one may very well come at the cost of failure of another. All the criticism leveled at ‘the process’ makes many forget that the process is built on a few very smart, very dedicated people.
While it may be fair to say that any given country isn’t trying, you cannot say that of the Convention as a whole. I will be the first to defend these people.
… Stéphane Dion is here – wearing a Non-governmental Organization badge.

Focus of Climate Talks Shifts to Helping Poor Countries Cope
‘With little progress on the primary goal of United Nations climate talks, a secondary quest to help poor countries cope with global warming has now become a central theme of the gathering.
Under an agreement the delegates reached Tuesday, developing countries and other institutions will have direct access to an adaptation fund established in Kyoto in 1997, which is expected to streamline the financing of crucial projects in the developing world.

U.S. prevails on climate draft, Ban says
The U.N. chief asserts that the text emanating from the Bali summit won’t include specific targets for lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

By Alan Zarembo and Thomas H. Maugh II (Los Angeles Times)
NUSA DUA, INDONESIA — As the United Nations climate conference here was drawing to its conclusion, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday acknowledged that the United States’ goal of deleting specific emission reduction guidelines from a draft agreement had succeeded.
“Realistically, it may be too ambitious if delegations would be expected to be able to agree on targets of greenhouse gas emission reductions” here in Bali, he told reporters. “Practically speaking, this will have to be negotiated down the road.”

December 12
Finally some good news!
Bali conference close to deal on saving forests
By Daniel Howden in Bali
A breakthrough on deforestation is set to be the first success of the UN climate talks in Bali. Diplomats were confident last night that the “road map” to a new climate-change treaty would contain a crucial reference to forests.
That would be an important first for a sector omitted from the Kyoto treaty – the world’s only previous attempt to deal with the build-up of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere. Deforestation is recognised as the second leading cause of climate change and is responsible for a third of carbon emissions from the developing world. More

December 11
Good news and bad news from Bali
By Antonio Hill, Senior Policy Adviser, Climate Change, Oxfam
The good news in Bali is that there is possibly a deal on the table at the UN climate change conference. With vision and leadership, there could be a clear pathway to negotiating long term commitments that would limit the damage from global warming.
The bad news is that there is little sign of that leadership emerging yet. This is the challenge for government ministers as they board their flights to Bali for the last few days of negotiations.

(Al Jazeera) Efforts are intensifying to agree an international consensus on how to fight climate change at United Nations-led talks on the Indonesian island of Bali. But the biggest stumbling block facing delegates is whether the text should include targets for rich countries to cut emissions of greenhouse gases.

(BBC) For a moment this week, negotiators at this year’s round of UN climate talks in Bali were able to pause and contemplate the treaty, which their forerunners’ compiled in the 1997 Kyoto winter.
For some, that meant celebrating a pioneering attempt to curb the growth of greenhouse gas emissions.
For others, it meant mulling the fact that Kyoto has been a disappointment, failing to realise its parents’ ambitions; yet others, including, one suspects, the Bush administration and many OPEC members, would have cursed the fact that the child was born at all.
Then it was back to the bigger business of Bali; drawing up a blueprint for the next generation of climate treaty, the progeny of Kyoto, bigger, bolder and more comprehensive than its parent. More

December 10
Special Report III
While you are preparing for Wednesday night I am sitting in the final plenary of the day at COP (the plenary dealing with the Kyoto Protocol). Overall no one seems too surprised by what is happening so far. China is throwing up some obstacles, especially with regards to an apparent resurgence in the Japan-China animosity and their ‘word of the conference’ is “no”. The NGOs seem happy with China and the rest of the G-77 and upset with the usual suspects (Australia, Canada, US, EU, etc)
Indigenous peoples are pleased that the new decision on reducing emissions on deforestation and forest degradation recognizes that they exist – a big step in the UNFCCC process.
Other than that, the argument on whether or not Parties will agree to ranges for emission reductions continues. As you recall, this was one issue on which Canada was rather vocal at the last COP.
Ministers are arriving today and they have a few issues to discuss over their ‘gala reception’ tonight. We shall see if concrete progress is made by Friday (or most likely Saturday).
No Deal in Sight at Bali
PENANG, Malaysia, Dec 10 (IPS) – As a major United Nations ‘framework convention’ on climate change (UNFCCC) crossed into its second half on Monday, the official view is one of optimism that progress has been made in laying the ”building blocks” for a future agreement. But others say the discussions are hopelessly deadlocked and that proposals could fall far short of the drastic emission cuts required to curb global warming.
More IPS Coverage of Conference
See also
Canada, Climate Change & the Bali Conference
UNFCCC Web pages on the Conference

December 9
Special Report II
An Olympic podium sweep for Canada in 2010 may be a distant dream but, at the climate change conference in Bali Canada achieved a sweep – of the fossil awards.
The fossil award is a daily ‘prize’ to the country that has done the most to derail negotiations – on Saturday Canada won first second and third place.
First place for the fact that the negotiating position of Canada was leaked – they will only agree to absolute and binding emission targets for all emitters (developed and developing alike). This will very likely have serious negative consequences on any chance of agreeing to a post 2010 climate change mechanism.
Second place for the fact that while arguing for binding targets for all countries on one hand, Canada is asking for special consideration of its ‘national circumstances, on the other.
And third place for not setting a baseline year against which it will measure its 2050 targets.
More generally, all negotiations within the subsidiary bodies are supposed to conclude tonight. So far it is not looking good – Parties are frantically running around between closed door meetings, whispering to each other or shouting into cell phones. We will have to see what tomorrow brings.

Plan to scrap tariffs on green technology falters in Bali
U.S. and European trade officials hoping to open a new front in the global warming battle have failed to win approval for a proposal to eliminate tariffs on environmentally friendly technologies.
Delegates from about 30 countries wrapped up two days of talks Sunday after grappling with how changes to trade policies might help in the fight against global warming.They talked about a U.S.-European Union proposal to open up trade in solar-powered, wind-powered and related technologies, but India and Brazil both rejected the plan.
Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said it falls short because it would not apply to biofuels such as ethanol, which he said has helped Brazil cut climate-warming carbon dioxide emissions. More

December 7
Bali Update: Pushing for Action, Not Talk
The diplomats and officials gathered in Bali to shape talks leading to a new climate treaty are beginning to feel the heat. In public conference rooms and private hotel suites, they are (in theory at least) trying to prepare a two-year “road map” for updating the faltering 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change, the world’s first experiment in common action to limit global warming.
But they are outnumbered by armies of observers ….
Other observers are acting as a sort of truth squad, revealing back-corridor maneuvers that clash with their goals. Green campaigners handed out their latest set of “Fossil of the Day” awards to countries they accuse of trying to prevent any treaty addendum that includes binding limits on greenhouse gases.
…the award “winners” for Friday:
Third place went to the U.S. and Canada for refusing to accept a draft proposal from the G77, a group of developing countries, for technology transfer as a key component of future discussions. Second place was scooped up by the U.S. as well, this time for re-opening the Major Emitters (or as they call it, Major Economies) negotiations in the midst of the Bali negotiations, distracting from the process at hand. And the first place prize went to, drum roll please, Canada, for refusing to take on absolute emissions reductions targets unless developing countries do so as well — ignoring Canada’s historical responsibility and its vastly higher per capita emissions compared to developing countries. Full story

December 6
Special Report I

Wednesday Night is fortunate to have several friends at the Climate Change meeting, one of whom has sent this first-hand account of the early days. We look forward to more.
Everywhere you go there are reminders that the eyes of the world are on this conference – cameras, protesters (minimal) and delegations 50 strong. Spirits are high among those who aren’t responsible for making decisions. They believe that the news cameras, reporters and hordes of NGO’s will spur countries to agree on major issues. In session, delegates are quick to remind themselves that some of these issues have already been on the table for 2 years with no real progress
Reducing emissions for deforestation and degradation is a good example. Some countries are concerned that if the mechanism is not well designed, it will pay the most to the countries that have done the least over the past few decades. There is a real risk that countries with high deforestation rates will not just be forgiven for past bad behavior but will actually be rewarded for it. Countries, like India, who have actually increased their forest cover over the past decade, on the other hand, will get nothing.
Given that we really are dealing with limited resources (with current commitments not even 10% of the existing forests in developing countries could receive funding) can we afford to pay for results that have already been achieved? From an economic standpoint it is certainly difficult to rationalize incentive back payments – it somewhat defeats the purpose.
On the Canadian front, word among the delegates is that Canada is floundering in its own irrelevance. There was some anticipation that when Australia ratified Kyoto, the US would be isolated. In fact the US never has or will care about who else is on ‘their side’ whereas Canada has never performed well in isolation. It will be interesting to see if this will change the party line when the ministers arrive next week.

On a lighter note, I have decided that the award for true commitment to addressing climate change should go to the guy (or girl) who spends the day walking around in 30 degree heat in a polar bear costume. I am beginning to think that the polar bear could, in fact be the Canadian opposition delegate in disguise.

December 4
… Kishan Kumarsingh, Chairman of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) emphasized the importance of reducing emissions from deforestation.
Mr. Kumarsingh explained that forest ecosystems play a key role globally, both in tackling climate change – by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – and in adaptation to climate change by maintaining ecosystem services and providing livelihood options.
Deforestation is estimated to have occurred at the alarming rate of 13 million hectares per year in the period 1990-2005, accounting for 20% of global annual greenhouse gas emissions in the late 1990s and making it the world’s second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.
The Conference is expected to adopt a decision on reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries. More

3 Comments on "The Bali Conference – Special Reports to WN + Updates"

  1. Diana Thébaud Nicholson December 9, 2007 at 1:10 pm ·

    December 6
    Australia’s new PM has told China he will act as a bridge between Beijing and the developed world in negotiations on cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
    Kevin Rudd made the offer in a phone conversation with Premier Wen Jiabao.
    China is under intense pressure from the West to agree to binding targets on carbon emissions at talks in Bali. BBC

  2. Diana Thébaud Nicholson December 12, 2007 at 10:08 am ·

    Fossil Awards
    The countries that received the awards more than once until Wednesday (Dec. 12) are: Australia, Canada, Japan, Saudi Arabia and the United States.
    On Dec. 12 the U.S. won another [“Fossil of the Day Award”] for last-minute efforts to block consensus on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) in SBSTA, first by calling for deletion of the paragraph linking REDD to the Bali Roadmap, and second by insisting on last minute wording, with unclear intentions, to link deforestation and degradation to broader land use considerations. More on Fossil Awards

  3. Diana Thébaud Nicholson December 12, 2007 at 8:05 pm ·

    Don’t fight, adapt
    We should give up futile attempts to combat climate change
    Open Letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations
    Dear Mr. Secretary-General,
    Re: UN climate conference taking the World in entirely the wrong direction
    It is not possible to stop climate change, a natural phenomenon that has affected humanity through the ages. Geological, archaeological, oral and written histories all attest to the dramatic challenges posed to past societies from unanticipated changes in temperature, precipitation, winds and other climatic variables. We therefore need to equip nations to become resilient to the full range of these natural phenomena by promoting economic growth and wealth generation. More
    See also Terence Corcoran’s rather nasty A new call to reason
    in The National Post (Thanks to Ron Meisels)

Comments are now closed for this article.