16 December 2007

US Herded Into Consensus in Bali

By Marwaan Macan-Markar

NUSA DUA, Bali, Indonesia, Dec 15 (IPS) - It was left to India, China, South Africa and Brazil to stand up for the developing world and steer the United States towards the consensus as a major two-week international climate change conference ended here on Saturday.

The final agreement for the ‘Bali Roadmap’ was struck when the head of the U.S. government delegation, Paula Dobriansky, conceded ground to insightful and, at times, emotional appeals by countries from the Group of 77 and China. ‘’We will go forward and join the consensus,’’ said Dobriansky, under secretary of state for democracy and global affairs, to loud applause.

The deep frustration shared by the members of G-77, a 130-member bloc of developing countries spanning Africa, Asia and Latin America, to U.S. objections to language in the final text of the roadmap was best echoed by the delegate from Papua New Guinea. ‘’If you cannot lead, leave it to the rest of us. Please get out of the way,’’ a visibly angry Kevin Conrad told U.S. officials to cheers from other delegates.

Conrad was preceded by the South Africa delegate, who reminded Washington that the language that the G-77 bloc had accepted in the final text for a unified solution to a warming planet was unprecedented. ‘’This has never happened before. This was not possible last year,’’ said Marthinus Van Schalkwyk, minister for environmental affairs and tourism.
It was a dispute over one paragraph in the section on the future role of developing countries to help reduce the emission of greenhouse gases (GhGs) that caused the United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNCCC), originally scheduled Dec. 3-14, to run into an extra day.

The conference attracted nearly 11,000 participants, including ministers and senior officials from 188 countries.

The final session of government officials began Saturday morning, following a tough round of negotiations for an acceptable document. India and China raised initial objections, as the giants of the G-77, at the wording introduced in the final agreement, changing the list of priorities for the developing world to respond to mitigating climate change.

‘’The G-77 had accepted a draft last night, but this morning we noticed there was a change,’’ Kirit Parikh, member of the Indian planning commission and a delegate on New Delhi’s team to the Bali meeting, told IPS. ‘’We are not sure who was behind it. This was unacceptable to us.’’

What the G-77 favoured was national ‘’actions’’ by the developing world to combat mitigation of GhG emissions to be placed foremost within ‘’the context of sustainable development, supported by technology and enabled by financing and capacity-building’’.

The stance of the developing world, from the beginning of this meeting, was to secure funding and green-friendly technologies from the developed world in order to combat their domestic release of GhGs.

The group then agreed to consider such expectations as having ‘’measurable, reportable and verifiable’’ domestic programmes as proof of ‘’nationally appropriate mitigation’’ efforts. The text presented to governments for approval on Saturday morning had placed the latter mitigation demands ahead of the development and aid agenda.

The U.S. government found itself isolated during the final session, as Dobriansky insisted on the mechanics of mitigation in the developing world being placed as a priority ‘’because developing countries have made statements (about GhG mitigation) but (there are) no commitments. That is what we want.’’ The other powerful player at this meeting, the European Union, threw its weight behind the G-77.

‘’The developed world must now put on the table real financing, technology transfer and offer assistance for countries affected by climate change or those that soon will be, to adapt,’’ Daniel Mittler, spokesman for Greenpeace International, a global environmental lobby, told IPS. ‘’On these issues the Bali meeting has seen progress.’’

The pressure that the G-77 was under during the negotiations at the UNCCC, to endorse a view that went against the grain of its development interests, came to light on Friday night. Pakistani ambassador Munir Akram, chairman of the G-77, told journalists: ‘’We, the developing countries, have had an uphill battle at this conference to protect our legitimate interests. We had to fight every inch of the way to secure our objectives.’’

He even hinted that threats, ‘’including trade sanctions,’’ had been made. While Akram did not elaborate, European diplomatic sources involved in the negotiations revealed that U.S. delegates had, at one point, introduced issues such as ‘’good governance’’ in the developing world as a condition for Washington to be part of the Bali Roadmap.
The conference was billed as a significant moment in the on-going global effort to combat climate change within the multi-lateral U.N. system. Scientific reports released this year raised the alarm that the planet was warming at a faster pace than previously believed and called for dramatic cuts in GhGs. The primary burden was placed on the developed world, historically the worst emitter of carbon dioxide since the industrial revolution.

Under the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, further affirmed by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol that was added to the international treaty, developing countries are expected to reduce GhG emissions through voluntary measures. The industrialised nations, with the exception of the U.S., had agreed, under the protocol, to reduce GhG emissions by five percent, as of 1990 levels, between 2008 and 2012.

One target that green groups were aiming for at Bali was for specific emission cuts from the developed world, 25 - 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

That was missing in the final text, despite warnings by scientists about the environmental chaos that would hit the developing world, if temperatures continued to rise. The language calling for specific emission cuts post-2012, which was spelled out in a draft of the Bali Roadmap and circulated on Thursday, was reduced to a footnote by Saturday.

In the end, although no specific cuts were agreed upon, the Bali deal did set a timeline and an agenda for future discussions that may finally obtain for the developing world funding from the richer nations as well as technology transfer.

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