As of this writing, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change talks in Bali have not yet produced a final agreement. That’s ok. The tectonic shift in international climate politics has already occurred.
It was clear almost from the beginning of the event that the U.S. was engaged in “hard obstruction,” attempting not only to avoid commitments for itself but actively working to block other countries from setting further targets for greenhouse gas emissions reduction. That’s been the policy in place for the last seven years.
What has changed is the European position. In past years, Europeans have been content to state their preference for a faster pace toward a new set of emissions targets and then timidly give up 90 per cent of their negotiating position to bring the U.S. on board. The diplomats would then typically attempt to downplay any major rift and present a far more united front than really exists.
This year is different. When the Americans flatly rejected any mention of a new set of targets, the EU promised to boycott the U.S.-hosted major emitters climate summit, which is at best a complement and at worst a distraction to the UNFCCC process.
As a result, it looks likely that the U.S. may compromise. But even if no compromise is reached or targets agreed to, this is a major step forward. Environmental and civil society groups have long been pushing for the Europeans to move forward with an ambitious agenda that the U.S. may eventually catch up to. It seems at last that if the U.S. will not come along, Europe is willing to make progress anyway. By 2009, we should all be on the same page.
I’ve heard that there has also been significant progress on the adaptation and deforestation angles in Bali, but I have yet to read through the details of either. Plus, I always like it when youth find their voice on this issue. Any way you slice it, this conference will be seen as a major step forward.
— Scott Paul
Update: A deal has been brokered in a small group that a larger plenary will consider in a few hours. It calls for a “two-track” process, dealing with both Kyoto and the larger UNFCCC, that will culminate in a new deal to be finalized in Copenhagen in 2009. Unclear as yet whether it includes any mention of concrete targets. UN Dispatch, It’s Getting Hot in Here, and Bali Buzz are following closely.