Saturday, Dec. 15, 2007
Who Won and Lost at Bali
By Bryan Walsh/Nusa Dua
In the nearly a decade since the U.S. rejected the landmark climate change agreement known as the Kyoto Protocol, the U.S. has become accustomed to being attacked at U.N. environmental gatherings. But the pounding it took in the tortured all-night negotiations that capped the UN climate change conference in Bali was unprecedented. Not only did developing nations big and small from India to Papua New Guinea openly chastise the U.S. for its last-minute refusal to endorse the new agreement dubbed the Bali Roadmap, but — with the exception of a confused statement from Japan — not one of the allies that had generally stood with the U.S. the past two weeks — Australia, Russia, Canada — rose in its defense.
In the end, the U.S.'s total isolation was too much for even it to bear. "We've listened very closely to many of our colleagues here during these two weeks, but especially to what has been said in this hall today," said lead American negotiator Paula Dobiansky. "We will go forward and join consensus." Boos turned to cheers, and the deal was essentially sealed. Here's a breakdown of what it means, who won and who lost:
WHAT WAS ACHIEVED
The roadmap is essentially the beginning of a beginning. The negotiations to come have a specific end date — 2009 — and for the first time, dismantles what the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change executive secretary Yvo de Boer called "the Berlin Wall of climate change," the idea that only the rich nations need to take responsibility for fighting global warming. Both developed countries
The two sides still have different responsibilities, with developed nations ready to take on more quantifiable emissions cuts, and developing nations preparing to take on less specific national actions, but no country is left behind. That matters because the majority of future carbon emissions will come from the developing world, and no climate deal can work without the participation of China and India. "The developing nations of the South are on the same road as the North," says Peter Goldmark, director for the climate and air program for Environmental Defense. "They're using the same roadmap."
Bringing the developing nations on board made it possible for the U.S. to join. Since the Kyoto Protocol was signed
Lost a bit in the final drama was the Bali roadmap's most substantial achievement: putting forestry front and center for future climate change negotiations. Deforestation accounts for up to 20% of man-made global warming emissions, but the Kyoto Protocol has no mechanism to support the protection of forests. That will change, and eventually tropical nations could be rewarded for not cutting down their forests, providing a way to reduce carbon emissions
WHAT WASN'T ACHIEVED
The Bali roadmap contains no specific commitments or figures on the emissions reductions that developed countries will need to take, beyond language that "deep cuts" will be needed. Earlier in the week the EU fought hard to include a specific target of 25 to 40% cuts for developed nations by 2020, and a need to halve global emissions — two figures cited by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) latest assessment of global warming science. Neither made it into the final text, thanks largely to determined opposition from the U.S., although a footnote points to the IPCC report. For environmentalists who had hoped that the recent avalanche of data underscoring the rising crisis of climate change might prompt tougher action, Bali was a disappointment. "It was a rather weak deal," said Meena Rahman, chair of Friends of the Earth International. "It's compromised."
After years of essentially rolling over against the Bush Administration on climate change, the EU showed surprising spine. A mid-week threat led by Germany to boycott the upcoming major emitter' conference — a Bush initiative that would bring together the world's biggest economies to talk about climate change
But the clear big winners are China and India, which have fully arrived as major players on international climate action. China in particular came to Bali ready to negotiate hard, but also prepared to give something — a vital change after years of insisting that it would take no responsibility for climate change. While India began the negotiations seemingly disengaged, the country elevated its game in the final day, and showed that it was willing to go beyond its own narrow national interests. That was the case for the developing world as a whole, which stood up to the U.S. without scuttling the possibility of a future deal. "The developing countries allowed this discussion to begin in a whole new way," says David Doniger, policy director for the Natural Resource Defense Council's climate center.
— WHO LOST
It should be difficult for a country to make the final concession that allows a landmark deal to fall into place, and still appear selfish and churlish — but the U.S. somehow managed to do that. Years of blocking climate action at every turn meant the Bush Administration came into the Bali talks with little public credibility, and while there was a sense before the talks that the U.S. might show flexibility, that hope was quickly dispelled. Throughout the negotiations the U.S. — with help, at least until the last night, from Canada, Australia and Japan — blocked attempts to make climate diplomacy match the urgency of climate science. "The U.S. needed to come in here and build up its credibility," says Kevin Knobloch, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists. "Instead, they just burnished their Darth Vader image."
— WHAT'S NEXT
That's the real question. The roadmap outlines the next steps for negotiation, and calls for a deadline of 2009 — in time to have a formal successor to the Kyoto Protocol. But as tortuous as Bali was, the next round — which will have to tackle the specific actions to be taken by developed and developing nations alike
But at least we all seem to be headed in the same direction, if not at the same speed. "This is not an issue between the developed world and the developing world," said Rona Ambrose, India's environment minister. "This is a global issue. The challenges are huge. The task is huge."
Copyright � 2007 Time Inc.