A minimal agreement on climate change in Bali

As the Bali Conference of Parties within the IPCC finished on December 14th, it is time for me to sum up the situation with what took place during those days.

The least I can say is that the official position from the United States seriously endangered the negotiations and led to an agreement with minimum targets.

This lead some to believe that the solution to climate change won’t come from international agreements within the IPCC and the UN.

As the IHT notes :

In a tumultuous final session at international climate talks in which the U.S. delegates were booed and hissed, delegates from nearly 190 nations committed Saturday to negotiating a new accord by 2009 that, in theory, would set the world on a course toward halving emissions of heat-trapping gases by 2050.

The dramatic finish to the negotiations came after a last-minute standoff during a day of see-saw emotions, with the co-organizer of the conference, Yvo de Boer, fleeing the podium at one point as he held back tears and the representative from Papua New Guinea telling the U.S. delegation to lead, follow or “please get out of the way.”

The standoff started when developing countries demanded that the United States agree that the eventual pact not only measure poorer countries’ steps, but also the effectiveness of financial aid and technological assistance from wealthier ones.

The United States did capitulate in that open session, which many observers and delegates said included more public acrimony and emotion than any of the treaty conferences since 1992, when countries drafted the original United Nations climate pact, the Framework Convention on Climate Change.

In a broader sense, the closing session of the two-week negotiation here was the culmination of a profound shift over the course of months by the administration of President George W. Bush from insisting that the 1992 treaty, signed by President George H.W. Bush in his final year in office but never ratified by the United States, was sufficient on its own to avoid dangerous human interference with the climate.


In May, Bush announced his own parallel set of meetings with the countries accounting for 85 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Here on the island of Bali, European delegates threatened to pull out of those talks unless the U.S. delegation agreed to keep some semblance of concrete targets in the outline for the next two years of talks.

Those targets remain in the agreement – including a possible cut in rich countries’ emissions of up to 40 percent by 2020 and overall emissions cut in half by 2050 – but they are now a footnote to the nonbinding preamble, not a main feature of the negotiating “road map.”

In all of this, the Bush administration did not, in the end, have to shift overall from its most staunchly defended goal: that any comprehensive new accord maintain flexibility, allowing nations to agree on a rough goal for global emissions but using any mix of means at the national level to get there.

On the bright side, the Bali conference of parties led to some promising agreements on rainforests protection that may stop deforestation.

The International Herald Tribune has a very brief and simple way to explains climate mitigation :

Behind the millions of words at the Bali climate conference, in documents, speeches and slick brochures, lay a set of simple numbers: 2 and 445 and “25 to 40.”

That’s 2 degrees Celsius, 445 parts per million of carbon dioxide, and a 25-to-40-percent reduction in global-warming gases — a formula, some say, to save the planet from climate change’s severest consequences.

In the end, at U.S. insistence, none of those numbers appeared in the U.N. conference’s key final document. But in the coming two years of crucial climate negotiations, as authorized at Bali, those simple numbers are sure to become chips in the high-stakes diplomatic, political and economic bargaining of almost 190 nations involved.

Many people around the world – in the United States too – are waiting forward to knowing the position of the future presidency that will be elected in 2008 and that will came into office.

The USA have two views. The official one comes from President Bush who doesn’t want to cut significantly greenhouse gases emissions as it might undermine their economies. The second view, followed by many states and cities in the country, comprises decreasing in an important way CO2 emissions.

One of these cities, Seattle, reached its Kyoto Protocol goals and decreased by 8 percent its local greenhouse gases. If this city did it, why the others couldn’t ?

To conclude, some people believes that IPCC talks won’t help us in solving climate change. On this matter, I strongly recommend you to read the excellent Climate Change Action blog, especially their article Kyoto: More Harm Than Good. Where next?

The WWF has similar views on what took place in Bali.

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