25 December 2007

Bali wrap-up

And here is the closing press briefing...

So was it all a success?

It did indeed launch a two-year negotiation process (the "Bali roadmap") culminating in the 2009 UN Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen, where an agreement on CO2 and other greenhouse gas reductions should be met, to take effect in 2012 (post-Kyoto).

It tackled issues relating to emission reductions, forests (and deforestation), adaptation (to climate change impacts) and technological transfer.

In the first days of the conference it saw Australia joining in to the Kyoto protocol, this way isolating the US as the only country within the Annex II of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
not to have ratified the treaty. According to this Convention, the Annex II refers to countries that have restrictions on their emissions and "have to provide financial resources to the developing countries".

The negotiations, however, were not easy, as briefly described...

Earlier in the talks, for example, delegations from the US and Japan, supported by Canada, rejected strong proposals on financing technological transfer.

Throughout the conference many discussions were undertaken in order to produce a draft paper that would consolidate the desired agreement on how to take a long-term climate change regime forward.

During the last day, before an agreement had been reached, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, in an attempt to urge the countries to be flexible and to accept the latest draft of the "roadmap" said he was "
disappointed at the level of progress", being imediately greeted with a standing ovation.

After this moment, Nation after Nation expressed their willingness to be flexible and accept the document. Up until it came the turn of the US, which stated they were "not prepared to accept this formulation", followed by a stunned silence and then a crescendo of boos and hisses.

Nevertheless, Nations continued to accept the draft, until it came the turn of Kevin Conrad, the representative from Papua New Guinea who said what no-one else dared saying: "There is an old saying if you are not going to lead you should get out of the way and so I say to the United States: ‘We ask for your leadership but if you are not going to lead, leave it to us. Get out of the way.’"

After which
Paula Dobriansky, chief US negotiator eventually declared they would "go forward and join the consensus", this way reaching a deal.

So it seems that in the end all was great! Or was it?

A quick tour through the web pages of some influential environment NGOs revealed that the "roadmap" clearly has some serious limitations.

According to Greenpeace, the low tactics used by the US (and supported by Japan, Canada, Australia and others) have "watered down" the consensus.

One of their main criticisms were about the fact that "the strong science that should be driving the process was relegated to a footnote".

Also, they claim that, relating with the reduction of emissions from deforestation, the document has
"a loophole that may allow some industrialised countries to swap binding targets for voluntary goals", which unquestionably raises some concerns.

Friends of the Earth revealed some limitations on the Adaptation Fund, aimed at assisting countries, that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, in meeting the costs of adaptation.

"A work plan to negotiate complex issues on the potential scheme to reduce deforestation in developing countries, with references that could include plantations which would water down the scheme."

"An obligation for verifiable reporting on developing country actions without resolute commitments to finance technology and capacity building to assist them to do so."

Also, and some days after the conference was over, the WWF has issued a press release saying the Bali commitments were already forgotten. According to them, the EU environment ministers have decided (at the EU Environment Council in Brussels) not yet to include the emissions from the aviation sector in the European Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

Delia Villagrasa, Senior Advisor at WWF European Policy Office said: "Europe took a strong stance at the Bali climate talks, but seems to have taken a backward step with this lenient approach towards the aviation sector."

"Whilst all industrial sectors included in the ETS are required to do their share to put the EU on track to meet its Kyoto emissions reduction target, the ceiling on carbon emissions from airlines proposed by the Council today is almost 90 per cent above 1990 levels."

So where is the political will Ivo de Boer asked for at the beginning of the conference? Were the commintments really already forgotten? Or are the business-as-usual lobbies fighting back?...

Even though an important step forward has been made, it seems obvious there is still much to do to tackle the urgent issue of climate change and its impacts, with a sense of global justice...

UN Climate Change Conference in Bali, UNFCCC
Bali reports, UN Gateway on Climate Change
Tears, jeers and a last minute U-turn, Greenpeace
Kyoto afloat despite attempted sabotage, Friends of the Earth
Bali commitments already forgotten by EU Ministers, WWF

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