Sunday, December 16, 2007

Bali Climate Talks End, Finally

It took longer than expected, but finally a deal was reached in the international climate talks in Bali. The Bali talks were part of the process of negotiating a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocols that expire in 2012.

But like many agreements involving dozens of nations, the final deal signed in Bali is a watered down agreement that pushes the hard work of compromise off to future negotiations.

The European Union went into the Bali talks wanting an agreement that would compel nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 to 40 percent by 2020. In the end, Bali does not set any hard emissions-reduction targets. The United States, Canada and Japan were widely criticized as blocking the inclusion of target numbers.

What nearly scuttled the Bali talks though was an agreement that wealthy nations would aid developing nations with financial and technical help in developing emission-reducing technologies. Here the United States was singled out as blocking the final deal, with the delegate from Papua New Guinea using (for a meeting of diplomats) some very harsh language. According to the AP report delegate Kevin Conrad said, “We seek your leadership. But if for some reason you are not willing to lead, leave it to the rest of us. Please get out of the way.” The US dropped its opposition and the Bali agreement was soon approved.

The value of the Bali agreement is probably very little. In reality the hard work of negotiating a climate treaty has only been pushed off until 2009, when the adoption of a blueprint for the 2012 agreement is scheduled. The volume of greenhouse gases pumped into the atmosphere increases every day. Reductions in those emissions, with specific percentages set and penalties for violators established, will have to be part of the 2012 treaty. These will be tough negotiations; Bali has only put them off until another day.

It’s also time to move China and India out of the “developing nations” column. There are legitimate developing nations out there, countries struggling to establish themselves as stable states. Their economies are fragile and not up to “First World” standards, so adopting cleaner, more expensive, green technologies would be quite difficult. For these states it’s a tough calculus that says some environmental damage today is worth the prospect of long-term development and stability in the future.

India and China do not fall into this category. They cloak themselves in the “developing nations” language of Kyoto and Bali in order to boost their bottom line, not protect an economy on the edge. China could pursue cleaner, more expensive, energy production technologies, but it’s easier (and cheaper) to invoke the developing nation’s tag and open up more coal-fueled power plants (China is said to fire up a new coal-burning energy plant every few days). It’s this strategy that has China on the brink of surpassing the United States as the world’s top greenhouse gas emitter.

Hopefully when the hard work of the next round of climate talks begin China and India will find themselves in their proper place – among the world’s top economies and not conveniently hiding behind the cloak of the developing nation.
Sphere: Related Content

No comments: