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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 16th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)


Drama and tears before Bali deal was struck.

By Charles Clover, Environment Editor,Telegraph.co.uk from Bali
Last Updated: 4:01pm GMT 15/12/2007

An extraordinary day began with a fresh text of the Bali “road map” which Indonesia’s Environment Minister Rachmat Witoelar, as president of the conference, presented to delegates saying a “delicate balance” had been achieved.

India’s ambassador immediately made clear that he was not prepared to go along without it being made clear that there was responsibility of industrialised nations to supply developing countries with clean technologies, finance and support to deal with them problem “in a measurable manner.”

The crucial part of the agreement for developing countries had been rewritten overnight in a way that G77 countries said made it unclear that the supply of finance and clean technology, such as clean coal plants, had to be measurable reportable and verifiable.

China piled in, then Pakistan, and it became clear that this was a full scale row.

The conference was stopped, then restarted by Mr Witoelar, leading to wild accusations by China that the UN’s top climate official, Yvo de Boer, had allowed it to re-start while negotiations, chaired by the Indonesian foreign minister, were still continuing.

This Mr de Boer, in tears after two nights without sleep, later denied, to supportive applause.
Then Mr Witoelar called for another break in which he summoned the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, and the Indonesian President Yudhoyono, to read the riot act to delegates and break the deadlock.

Mr Yudhoyono urged the conference not to allow “the planet to crumble because we can’t find the right wording.”

Mr Ban said he was “disappointed at the lack of progress” and pointed out the conference was already due to have ended five hours earlier. This was at 1.20 pm local time.


The conference reconvened. South Africa made an emotional appeal for the Americans to reconsider their statement – and was supported by delegation after delegation from the developing world while Miss Dobriansky and James Connaughton, President Bush’s climate change adviser, talked increasingly animatedly off-microphone.

The killer blow came from the Harvard-educated representative of Papua New Guinea, Kevin Conrad, who used Mr Connaughton’s diplomatic gaffe of earlier in the week to humiliate the Americans.

Mr Connaughton had said: “We will lead. We will continue to lead but leadership also requires others to fall in line and follow.” Mr Conrad said, to applause: “If you are not willing to lead, then get out of the way.”

Miss Dobriansky finally pressed her button to speak again and said: “We will go forward and join the consensus.”

After cheers and diplomatic congratulations, the president of the conference assessed that “we are very, very close”, then banged his gavel down on India’s proposal to mark that a consensus had been achieved.

——————————-
Bali Climate Plan Leads to Washington.

By Charles J. Hanley, AP Special Correspondent Published on Guardian.co.UK, Saturday December 15, 2007 7:31 AM.

BALI, Indonesia (AP) – The “Bali Roadmap” for new climate negotiations leads to one address and one date: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. and Jan. 20, 2009.

That’s when a new occupant of the White House will be sworn into office, and when a fresh U.S. team, with what many expect to be a new attitude, will take up the negotiating mandate issued here Saturday at the end of the two-week U.N. climate conference.

For seven years, these annual sessions have witnessed a long-running diplomatic feud between the Bush administration, deadset against international obligations for industrial nations to cut greenhouse-gas emissions, and most of the rest of the world, which favors them.

The faceoff played out again in Bali this past week, when the U.S. delegation blocked an effort to insert an ambitious negotiating goal for the next two years – emissions cuts of 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

It was a repeat of what has happened consistently since the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which mandated relatively small reductions but was rejected by the U.S.

Time now may be on the side of emission cuts proponents.

From California to New England, U.S. state governments are enacting their own mandatory caps on carbon dioxide and other industrial and transportation gases blamed for global warming. Scores of U.S. cities have adopted Kyoto-style targets, trimming emissions via “green” building codes, conversion of municipal fleets to hybrid vehicles, energy-saving lighting and other measures.

Judging from recent opinion polls, natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, the southeastern U.S. drought and the California wildfires apparently are awakening more and more Americans to the potential perils of climate change.

“The majority of the United States is with you,” California’s environment secretary, Linda Adams, told the hundreds of Bali conference delegates last week. “We know that climate change affects all of us.”

In Washington, too, there’s movement after years of inaction. A Senate committee has approved the first legislation mandating caps on greenhouse gases and sent it to the full Senate.

“What you see is a new direction coming,” said David Doniger, a veteran climate policy analyst with the Washington-based Natural Resources Defense Council. “And this new direction is a very clear indication of where our policy is going in the future.”

That policy will be set primarily by the new president, and the Democratic presidential candidates and at least two of the Republicans – Arizona’s Sen. John McCain and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee – have endorsed mandatory emissions caps.

To many at Bali, the U.S. election calendar dominates the climate calendar. Even the diplomatically cautious and precise Yvo de Boer, U.N. climate chief, managed to hint that delegates should bide their time in the coming 2008-2009 negotiations.

“I really hope that that is a discussion” – about emissions reduction levels – “taken up toward the end of that two-year debate,” he told reporters.

But decisive U.S. action, even after Bush, is far from assured.

“The real problem is Congress,” Michael R. Bloomberg, New York’s climate-activist mayor, told a Bali gathering this past week. “They’re unwilling to face any issue that has costs or antagonizes any group of voters.” In fact, the emissions-caps bill may face trouble in the full Senate.

Even swift action may come too late for some.

Rising seas, expanding from warmth and from the runoff of melted land ice, are encroaching on low-lying island states, especially in the western Pacific. In these islanders’ minds, the roadmaps and new directions were needed a decade or more ago.

“We are very concerned that there is so little progress,” Kete Ioane, environment minister of the Cook Islands, told the Bali assembly days ago. “We are merely asking for our survival, nothing more, nothing less.”

———————

Climate Plan Looks Beyond Bush’s Tenure.
By THOMAS FULLER and ANDREW C. REVKIN
Published: December 16, 2007

NUSA DUA, Indonesia — The world’s faltering effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions got a new lease on life on Saturday, as delegates from 187 countries agreed to negotiate a new accord over the next two years — pushing the crucial debates about United States participation into the administration of a new American president.

Many officials and environmental campaigners said American negotiators had remained obstructionist until the final hour of the two-week convention and had changed their stance only after public rebukes that included boos and hisses from other delegates.

The resulting “Bali Action Plan” contains no binding commitments, which European countries had sought and the United States fended off. The plan concludes that “deep cuts in global emissions will be required” and provides a timetable for two years of talks to shape the first formal addendum to the 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change treaty since the Kyoto Protocol 10 years ago.

“The next presidential election takes place at the halfway point in these treaty talks,” David D. Doniger, who directs climate policy for the Natural Resources Defense Council and served in the Clinton administration, said on his Web log on Saturday. “So the U.S. will field a new team in the second half. And there are good odds that the next president will get serious on global warming.”

But the White House, while calling the negotiating plan “quite positive” in a printed statement, said the problem lay elsewhere. It described “serious concerns” about the limited steps taken by emerging economic powers.

Without citing China and India by name, it clearly singled them out, saying: “The negotiations must proceed on the view that the problem of climate change cannot be adequately addressed through commitments for emissions cuts by developed countries alone. Major developing economies must likewise act.”

In the talks, China and other emerging powers did inch forward, agreeing for the first time to seek ways to make “measurable, reportable and verifiable” emissions cuts. But those countries showed no signs of agreeing to any mandatory restrictions any time soon, saying their priority remained growing out of poverty.

The finish to the negotiations came after a last-minute standoff in the public plenary at the end of a day of high emotions, with the co-organizer of the conference, Yvo de Boer, fleeing the podium at one point as he held back tears.

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

The United States capitulated in that open session, which many observers and delegates said included more public acrimony than any of the treaty conferences since the 1992 framework.

The concession, though, came after a more profound shift by the Bush administration, which agreed during the two-week conference to pursue a new pact fulfilling the unmet goals of the original treaty; the pact would take effect in 2012 when the Kyoto Protocol expires.

While many observers described the United States change as a U-turn, it was the culmination of months of movement by the Bush administration, which had for years insisted that the 1992 treaty was enough to avoid dangerous human interference with the climate.

In 2005 talks in Montreal, for example, the American negotiating team walked out of one session, rejecting any talk of formal negotiations to improve on that pact.

Since then, the Bush administration has been confronted by new scientific data on climate change and by growing political pressure both internationally and domestically.

Still, while accepting on Saturday the need for a new agreement, the United States retained the flexibility that it had sought at the outset, fending off European attempts to set binding commitments on emission reductions. American negotiators said that was vital to gain global consensus.

The targets sought by Europe and others remain in the action plan — including the need for rich countries to cut emissions by 2020 up to 40 percent below 1990 levels, and a 50 percent cut in emissions globally by 2050. But they are now a footnote to the nonbinding preamble, not a main feature of the plan.

Andrew Light, an expert on environmental ethics at the University of Washington who was in Bali, criticized the Bush administration for insisting on those targets being sidelined, saying the United States had, in essence, rejected the foreboding climate projections of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which it had repeatedly praised in recent weeks.

“We could have moved on from here with a confident range of future cuts,” Mr. Light said. “Instead we have to move on with the same continued uncertainty. At the beginning of the week I was really heartened by the public praise the U.S. delegation was giving to the I.P.C.C. and now I can’t help but think, was it all lip service?”

Some environmental groups criticized Europe for not sticking to its guns. But it appeared that, in the end, the Europeans followed a path recommended in a speech last Monday by former Vice President Al Gore, fresh from receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo.

He advised Bali negotiators to look beyond the Bush administration, whose tenure ends in one year.

Beyond the histrionics and the politics, there were deeper reasons for the continuing clashes: in particular, the huge wave of industrialization and economic growth sweeping Asia.

The United States and Europe were largely responsible for taking the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas emitted by the burning of fossil fuels, to its current concentration of 380 parts per million from 280, a level which, until the industrial revolution, was not exceeded in at least 650,000 years.

But the growth in emissions for decades to come will largely be driven by developing countries, where some two billion people still cook on firewood or dung and crave the comforts and prosperity that come with abundant energy.

According to a recent analysis led by economists at the Electric Power Research Institute, if rich and poor countries do not together divert from “business as usual,” the concentration by 2040 could exceed 450 parts per million, a threshold that many scientists say could set in motion harmful changes for centuries to come.

Europe prevailed over the United States in one area, insisting that the next two years of talks proceed on two tracks: one for those countries, including the United States, not committing to mandatory limits, and a second building on the Kyoto Procotol, the 1997 update to the original treaty that requires emissions reductions in 36 major industrialized nations, but has been rejected by the United States.

The United States team in Bali had fought against that, demanding that a new agreement encompass the world’s major polluters and have sufficient flexibility, and no hard targets, to do that.

But in the end the United States had to agree to two tracks to avoid a total breakdown of the talks.

That is important, environmental campaigners said, because it guarantees work toward new mandatory gas restrictions in 2012, when the limits under the current Kyoto accord expire.

It also sustains a mechanism that, in theory, the United States could join under a new administration — if Congress becomes less insistent that the biggest developing countries move in lockstep.

That demand is reflected in some language in the current climate bill moving forward in the Senate, which demands “comparable” action from such countries.

There were many moments of drama and theater in the negotiations, at a resort complex on the southern tip of Bali, involving 11,000 officials, environmentalists, industry lobbyists and journalists. But nothing else matched the point on Saturday, in the final tumultuous plenary, when the American team was booed for trying to block a proposal by India.

Kevin Conrad, the negotiator from Papua New Guinea, rebuked the American delegation. “If for some reason you are not willing to lead, leave it to the rest of us,” he said. “Please, get out of the way.”

He was alluding to remarks made by an American official, James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, last week to a Reuters reporter, who quoted him as saying, “The U.S. will lead, and we will continue to lead, but leadership also requires others to fall in line and follow.”

That statement had become a sore point to many delegations.

A few more statements were made, but none of America’s traditional allies came to its defense.

Finally, Paula Dobriansky, the lead American negotiator, spoke.

“We came here to Bali because we want to go forward as part of a new framework,” said Ms. Dobriansky, the under secretary of state for democracy and global affairs. “We believe we have a shared vision and we want to move that forward. We want a success here in Bali. We will go forward and join consensus.”

The delegates erupted in lengthy applause, realizing that a deal was finally at hand.

Thomas Fuller reported from Nusa Dua, and Andrew C. Revkin from New York. Peter Gelling contributed reporting from Nusa Dua.

Related
Dot Earth: Move Over Kyoto — Here Comes a ‘Copenhagen Protocol’ (December 15, 2007)
TierneyLab: Contrarians vs. Bali (December 14, 2007)

——————-

The World – As China Goes, So Goes Global Warming.

By ANDREW C. REVKIN, The New York Times, December 16, 2007.
GIVEN the accelerated melting these days in Greenland, it’s probably no longer appropriate to use the adjective “glacial” to describe treaty negotiations aimed at curbing dangerous human interference with the climate.

{Dot Earth – A New York Times blog about climate change, the environment and sustainability. Join the discussion. Comment on this article at Dot Earth }

The talks in Bali over the last two weeks were just the latest baby step in trying to make that happen. The Bali achievement? Two more years of talks. In the meantime, concentrations of carbon dioxide, the main climate-heating emission, continue the climb that began 250 years ago, as industrialization surged on a diet of fossil fuels.

So, presuming the industrialized and industrializing nations are serious, who or what can realistically turn the carbon tide?

As always, the fingers of many experts on energy and the environment point both west and east — to the United States and China.

The established superpower arose riding a wave of fossil-fueled prosperity. The emerging one, sitting on a wealth of coal, sees few reasons not to follow suit; after all, it has only just caught its wave (with India and others in hot pursuit).

Yet the tide can only be turned, a host of scientists and economists with varied perspectives agree, if China and other rising powers like India speed through the familiar path in nation building — resource extraction, industrial and economic growth, accompanying despoliation, and then environmental restoration and protection. If they don’t, their emissions will eventually swamp all other sources, according to many analyses.

Richard Richels, an economist at the Electric Power Research Institute, helped produce an ominous forecast: even if the established industrial powers turned off every power plant and car right now, unless there are changes in policy in poorer countries the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could still reach 450 parts per million — a level deemed unacceptably dangerous by many scientists — by 2070. (If no one does anything, that threshold is reached in 2040.)

Libertarians say that once countries get rich, they’ll do the right thing for the climate. But critics of this view say the long life of carbon dioxide (and of sources like the coal-burning plants China is building at the rate of one a week) mean that waiting just compounds the problem beyond fixing.

Theories abound over how best to help China embrace emissions-reducing policies. One way, many scientists and scholars say, is to make nonpolluting energy sources cheaper than the unfettered burning of abundant fossil fuels. Right now they are far more expensive.

That is why several dozen top-flight climate and energy experts sent a letter this month to members of Congress and the presidential candidates seeking a tenfold rise in the federal budget for energy research, now about $3 billion a year.

Some economists say the only thing that will speed the change is money, whether it is called aid, technology assistance, or something else.

Representatives of developing countries have long made this point, noting that the established powers spent a century building the greenhouse-gas blanket. Speaking in Bali, Munir Akram, Pakistan’s United Nations ambassador, said: “What we have to do is to find a way to reduce emissions by those who can afford to reduce emissions.”

But there are plenty of doubts about the willingness of Congress, particularly, to pay emerging economic competitors.

Some experts see the best prospects for change coming from the ground up, pointing to efforts like MetroBus, a program involving the World Resources Institute that greatly expanded the use of mass transit in Mexico City.

BinBin Jiang, a research associate in energy and development at Stanford University, sees similar opportunities in creating an efficient infrastructure for China’s exploding midsize cities. “That’s where you determine if you are going to leapfrog or go along the old Western path,” she said.

But Ms. Jiang also stressed that meaningful change in energy and climate policy within the United States was critical, too. “China is clearly responsible for the largest wedge of emissions in the future, but the United States is still the biggest roadblock,” she said. “The U.S. is not going to be influential by telling China what to do. It has to lead by example.”

———————–

ECONOMIC VIEW – A Carbon Cap That Starts in Washington.

By JUDITH CHEVALIER, The New York Times, December 16, 2007.


THE United Nations conference on climate change wrapped up in Bali, Indonesia, last week without a firm commitment from the United States or China to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. While a binding global agreement would be the best way to cut back on those emissions, a more limited but still useful approach is available, and it is wending its way through Congress.

In its current version, the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act, as the bill is known, would cap American carbon consumption through a tradeable permit plan. Even among those who support tradeable permits, there is considerable debate about what level of emissions reductions is realistic. Critics also object that it would damage American competitiveness to commit to domestic reductions without parallel commitments from developing-country trade partners like China.

But instead of using Chinese inaction as an excuse to avoid dealing with the problem, we should consider why emissions from China are soaring. There are numerous factors, all stemming from China’s rapid economic development. Yet one of the biggest is the enormous increase in China’s production of manufactured goods for export. Indeed, a study by the Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research in Britain estimated that in 2004, net exports accounted for 23 percent of Chinese greenhouse gas emissions.

We know where most of those Chinese exports are headed — to developed countries, like the United States, which accounts for about a quarter of them. A rough calculation suggests that almost 6 percent of Chinese carbon emissions are generated in the production of goods consumed here. That is the rough equivalent of the total emissions produced by Australia or France.

The Tyndall Center argues that carbon reduction policies should focus on carbon consumption, not emissions. That makes sense, especially in the absence of a binding global agreement.

One goal of a tradeable permit system is to force consumer prices for goods to reflect the harm that the production of those goods causes the planet. For example, if a television were made using a high-emission process, the factory would have to buy many carbon permits, driving up the TV’s price. A television made in a low-emission factory would require fewer permits, lowering its relative price. Consumers, of course, would have an incentive to choose the TV from the low-emission factory, and all factories would have an incentive to lower emissions.

A problem would arise, however, if a producer needed to buy permits to make televisions in a country with a carbon cap, while no permits were required in a country without a cap. The television from the country without the cap would be cheaper, consumers would prefer it, and there would be no economic incentive to cut emissions. Environmentalists call this the “leakage problem”: just as a balloon squeezed at one end will bulge at the other, emissions caps applied in only some economies will lead to emissions surges in others.

A provision in the current version of the Climate Security Act links responsibility to carbon consumption, not production. This idea derives from a joint proposal by the American Electric Power Company and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. The provision requires that importers of goods from countries without carbon caps obtain permits for the emissions resulting from the goods’ production. While this requirement could be used to protect American jobs from foreign competition, if handled equitably, it could provide an elegant solution to the leakage problem.

If the United States adopted a tradable permit system that treated emissions from domestic producers identically to emissions associated with imported goods, then products that are more emissions-intensive, whether domestic or imported, would require more permits and thus be more expensive. Producers in the United States and abroad would have an incentive to reduce greenhouse gases to make their goods more competitive.

Of course, such a plan would have an immediate cost for Chinese producers and American consumers. Chinese production methods are now much more carbon-emission-intensive than American methods, so the plan would probably raise the average price of Chinese imports. The alternative, however, is to try to force the Chinese to adopt binding carbon caps similar to those considered in the United States. But that would also raise the Chinese imports’ price. Moreover, Chinese adoption of carbon caps would apply to the whole economy and would be much more costly for China; an American carbon consumption permit system would shield the Chinese domestic sector.

“The best policy — both in terms of the environment and in terms of economic theory — would be to have all countries take on binding emissions caps under an international agreement,” said Nathaniel Keohane, director of economic policy and analysis at Environmental Defense, a nonprofit advocacy group. “But we have to recognize that’s not going to happen overnight.” In the meantime, he said, the United States and other developed countries “need to take the lead.” He called carbon consumption caps “a good first step.”

“FROM an environmental point of view,” Mr. Keohane said, “it would ensure that the pollution we cut here at home doesn’t simply end up coming out of a smokestack somewhere else. It levels the playing field for American companies in the global economy. And it also helps us move toward a truly international system, by providing an incentive for developing countries to take on binding caps of their own.”

The carbon consumption provision will face scrutiny under current trade agreements, but there is sound logic for including it in any emissions legislation. Most important, it would eliminate an excuse for doing nothing.

Judith Chevalier is a professor of economics and finance at the Yale School of Management.

———————-

OP-ED COLUMNIST   – It’s Too Late for Later.

By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, Bali, Indonesia, December 16, 2007.

The negotiators at the United Nations climate conference here in Bali came from almost 200 countries and spoke almost as many languages, but driving them all to find a better way to address climate change was one widely shared, if unspoken, sentiment: that “later” is over for our generation.

“Later” was a luxury for previous generations and civilizations. It meant that you could paint the same landscape, see the same animals, eat the same fruit, climb the same trees, fish the same rivers, enjoy the same weather or rescue the same endangered species that you did when you were a kid — but just do it later, whenever you got around to it.

If there is one change in global consciousness that seems to have settled in over just the past couple of years, it is the notion that later is over. Later is no longer when you get to do all those same things — just on your time schedule. Later is now when they’re gone — when you won’t get to do any of them ever again, unless there is some radical collective action to mitigate climate change, and maybe even if there is.

There are many reasons that later is over. The fact that global warming is now having such an observable effect on pillars of our ecosystem — like the frozen sea ice within the Arctic Circle, which a new study says could disappear entirely during summers by 2040 — is certainly one big factor. But the other is the voracious power of today’s global economy, which has created a situation in which the world is not just getting hot, it’s getting raped.

Throughout human history there was always some new part of the ocean to plunder, some new forest to devour, some new farmlands to exploit, noted Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, who came to observe the Bali conference. But “now that economic development has become the prerogative of every country,” he said, we’ve run out of virgin oceans and lands “for new rising economic powers to exploit.” So, too many countries are now chasing too few fish, trees and water resources, and are either devouring their own or plundering those of neighbors at alarming rates.

Indeed, today’s global economy has become like a monster truck with the gas pedal stuck, and we’ve lost the key — so no one can stop it from wiping out more and more of the natural world, no matter what the global plan. There was a chilling essay in The Jakarta Post last week by Andrio Adiwibowo, a lecturer in environmental management at the University of Indonesia. It was about how a smart plan to protect the mangrove forests around coastal Jakarta was never carried out, leading to widespread tidal flooding last month.

This line jumped out at me: “The plan was not implemented. Instead of providing a buffer zone, development encroached into the core zone, which was covered over by concrete.”

You could read that story in a hundred different developing countries today. But the fact that you read it here is one of the most important reasons that later has become extinct. Indonesia is second only to Brazil in terrestrial biodiversity and is No. 1 in the world in marine biodiversity. Just one and a half acres in Borneo contains more different tree species than all of North America — not to mention animals that don’t exist anywhere else on earth. If we lose them, there will be no later for some of the rarest plants and animals on the planet.

And we are losing them. Market-driven forces emanating primarily from China, Europe and America have become so powerful that Indonesia recently made the Guinness World Records for having the fastest rate of deforestation in the world.

Indonesia is now losing tropical forests the size of Maryland every year, and the carbon released by the cutting and clearing — much of it from illegal logging — has made Indonesia the third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the world, after the United States and China. Deforestation actually accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions than all the cars and trucks in the world, an issue the Bali conference finally addressed.

I interviewed Barnabas Suebu, the governor of the Indonesian province of Papua, home to some of its richest forests. He waxed eloquent about how difficult it is to create jobs that will give his villagers anything close to the income they can get from chopping down a tree and selling it to smugglers, who will ship it to Malaysia or China to be made into furniture for Americans or Europeans. He said his motto was, “Think big, start small, act now — before everything becomes too late.”

Ditto for all of us. If you want to help preserve the Indonesian forests, think fast, start quick, act now. Just don’t say later.

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