Bali delegates bite the bullet

Posted: 15 December 2007

After what the UK Environment Minister, Hilary Benn, called a 'hairy' night - punctuated by tears, boos and finally cheers - all the world's nations, apart from Burma, meeting in Bali agreed to launch negotiations towards a crucial and strengthened international climate change deal.

The decision, charting the Road from Bali, includes an agenda for the key issues to be negotiated up to 2009, following on from the Kyoto Protocol whose terms run out in 2012. It failed, however to include any agreed targets for reducing greenhous gas emissions, for which the European Union had pressed hard, other than in a footnote.

The negotiating agenda will include action for adapting to the negative consequences of climate change, such as droughts and floods; ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to widely deploy climate-friendly technologies, as well as financing adaptation and mitigation measures in the less developed world.

These are to include assistance to tropical developing countries for afforestation and agreement to put a tradeable price on forest conservation.

While no specific targets for reducing emissions were included in this deal, the European Union, Australia and developing countries stood their ground on the need to for a global commitment to reduce emissions cuts in the range of 25 - 40 per cent by 2020, as demanded by climate scientists.

'Real breakthrough'

"This is a real breakthrough, a real opportunity for the international community to successfully fight climate change," said Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), who in the final hours had broken down in tears of frustration. "Parties have recognised the urgency of action on climate change and have now provided the political response to what scientists have been telling us is needed," he added.

Environemtnal campaigners were less enthusiastic about the outcome. Friends of the Earth International (FOEI) said it was disappointed at the weak content following many attempts to derail the talks by some delegations.

FOEI Director Tony Juniper said: "This deal is very disappointing. We said we needed a roadmap, but this conference has failed to give us a clear destination. Many of the developing countries brought good proposals to Bali - they know we need a climate deal - but the industrialised nations have let them down. We urgently need to find a way forward for an international agreement. This is a journey we have to make together."

Delegations from the United States and Japan, supported by Canada, earlier in the talks shot down strong developing country proposals on financing the transfer of technology. The rest of the industrialised countries failed to reign in the destructive behaviour of these three countries, which has led to compromised deal, FOEI said.

Serious limitations

The deal does include an agreement on the Adaptation Fund which will begin to deliver funds for developing countries to deal with the impacts of climate change, and an agreement to review how industrialised countries will meet emissions reduction targets in the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.

FOEI points to various limitations of the deal. These include:

  • 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.

  • Obligation for verifiable reporting on developing country actions without resolute commitments to finance technology and capacity building to assist them to do so.
FOEI Climate Coordinator Stephanie Long said: "Around the world millions of people are already suffering the effects of climate change. People outside the talks have sent a strong message demanding climate justice. This message must no longer fall on deaf ears. We only have two years to build on this weak outcome and develop a just deal which ensures tough action from lndustrialised countries and assistance for people in the developing world."

Concluding negotiations in 2009 should ensure that the new deal can enter into force by 2013, following the expiry of the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol.

Indonesian Environment Minister and President of the conference, Rachmat Witoelar said: "We now have a Bali roadmap, we have an agenda and we have a deadline." "But we also have a huge task ahead of us and time to reach agreement is extremely short, so we need to move quickly."

Earlier this year, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a finding that if left unchecked, the world's average temperature could rise by as much as 6 degrees centigrade by the end of the century, causing serious harm to economies, societies and ecosystems worldwide.