Was Bali a success?

Andrew Dobson Camilla Toulmin David Steven Saleemul Huq Alun Anderson Oliver Tickell
18 December 2007



Saleemul Huq & Camilla Toulmin, IIED

Bali's routemap to Copenhagen

The "spin" over the outcomes began almost as soon as the final consensus text was adopted. As over 12,000 delegates returned from the thirteenth Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the European Union claimed COP 13 as a significant victory; while the United States was already saying that the results of Bali are inconsequential and not necessarily binding on it (and that it had "serious concerns" about the document it had reluctantly signed).

As so often, the truth lies in between.

Bali marks the start of the road that should (via Poznan, Poland in December 2008) reach Copenhagen in December 2009, when the fifteenth COP will be held. The tough negotiations in the last hours of the Bali meeting concerned the parameters of those negotiations over the next two years. Thus, the really tough times lie ahead, both within the UNFCCC process, as wellas in other arenas where key leaders will meet. These include the G8 summit to be held in Japan in July 2008, and a series of inter-sessional meetings between now and the end of that year. The next twenty-four months are, then, a vital period in the effort to secure a successful post-Kyoto deal in Copenhagen.

Camilla Toulminis the director of the International Institute for Environment & Development (IIED)
Saleemul Huq
is the director of the climate-change programme at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).

Alsoin openDemocracy: Camilla Toulmin, "Bali: no time to lose"(30 November 2007)

Saleemul Huq & Camilla Toulmin, "Climate change: from science and economics to human rights"(7 November 2006)On the positive side are developments in the US at state and citylevels, as well as amongst some of the leading presidential contenders (one of whom will be installed in the White House by the time of the Copenhagen meeting). The presence in Bali of a large contingent from states and cities across the US demonstrated clearly their engagement and the widespread desire in the country to think about and plan for the post-Bush era - as well as reflecting some impatience over thefact that we must all wait another twelve months before the fullforce of the federal government can be focused on getting apost-Kyoto deal. The major developing countries - China, India and Brazil - are also shifting their ground, recognising the urgent need to address climate change (provided they see real action from therich countries), and willing to take on a range of domestic commitments.

Bali also saw the emergence of important building-blocks for the post-2012 treaty. The establishing of mitigation of and adaptation to climate change as of equal importance is now widely accepted - in contrast to the Kyoto protocol, which only dealt with mitigation. The highlighting of technology-transfer and financing as cross-cutting theme is also welcome.

In addition, Bali produced two hopeful, albeit smaller, decisions:the adoption of the adaptation fundto provide funding to the most vulnerable countries to help them adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change in the near term;and an agreement on a system of payments for the conservation of tropical forests by many developing countries. These are small, but important foundations on which future agreement can be expanded.

The devil is, as always, in the detail. That is why two years of almost continuous, tough negotiations are in prospect before a deal emerges in Copenhagen in 2009. It will need all of us - in business,NGOs, research, media, citizens - to keep a close watch on our leaders to ensure that they do not revert to defending narrow interests at the expense of the planet's and humanity's future well-being.

Oliver Tickell, Kyoto2.org

The"Bali Roadmap"

Media reports of the Bali climate-change conference focused strongly on the theatrics - a tearful Yvo de Boer, UNFCCC executive secretary, led from the stage following forty-eight hours of unbroken day-and-night negotiations ... Papua New Guinea's dramatic call on the United States to either lead, or get out of the way ... United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon's return to the conference as it entered an unscheduled extra day ... and the final announcement that a historic agreement had been reached(and that, by implication, the world was saved).

It was much harder to find a coherent account of what had actually been agreed and what the consequences would be. For that I turned to the UNFCCC website in search of something called the "Bali Roadmap".The media focus on Bali's amateur dramatics rapidly became clear. Fora start there is no document called the "Bali Roadmap".There are rather twenty or so documents stating the decisions made. And they are all, without exception, as dull as death and as dry as dust.

OliverTickell is a journalist and campaigner on health and environment issues. He is the architect of the "Kyoto2" initiative
Also in openDemocracy:

Oliver Tickell, "Climate change: the last chance"(6 February 2007)

The most dramatic quote the UNFCCC press office could muster out of de Boer's final speech was that "This COP has made an importantcontribution in setting a very ambitious agenda going into the future. But I also think this COP has delivered real balance by addressing many of the direct needs today that developing countries have." So that's it - 100,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions (my guesstimate) just to fly all the delegates to Bali and back, and run the air-conditioning (Bali is a hot, steamy place in December) to set a loose agenda for further talks and recognise the needs ofdeveloping countries (needs already recognised in the climate convention itself).

And is the world saved? Far from it. It is going to hell in a handcart. A thorough trawl of the documents reveals many acknowledgments,recognitions, encouragements, requests and invitations, not to mention interminable procedural detail, but not a single commitment -except to talk more, and try to wrap it up by 2009. Worst of all,there is no recognition of the utter failure of the Kyoto protocolto achieve any actual reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions(emissions have only increased since it came into force in 1997).There was no mention of the high cost, inefficiency, indeed the rank perversity of the Kyoto protocol's flexibility mechanisms. And no questioning of the whole country-based system of controlling greenhouse-gas emissions which underlies much of the Kyoto protocol's failure.

Alsoin openDemocracy,David Steven's blog from the Bali climate-change summit opens our new GlobalDealpartnership with E3G plus...

openDemocracywriters debate the politics of climate change:

Dougald Hine, "Climate change: a question of democracy"(2 March 2007)
Andrew Dobson, "A politics of global warming: the social-science resource"(29 March 2007)
Mike Hulme, "Climate change: from issue to magnifier"(19 October 2007)
David Shearman, "Democracy and climate change: a story of failure"(7 November 2007)
Alejandro Litovsky, "The accountability challenge for climate diplomacy"(30 November 2007)
Tom Burke, "The world and climate change: all together now"(7 December 2007)
John Jackson, "Who gains from global warming?"(17 December 2007)What we have got is a belief that the basic structures and mechanisms of the Kyoto protocol will persist after 2012. This rests on a series of unspoken assumptions:

  • that within that failed framework there will be a greater emphasis on finding funds for adaptation (though nowhere near enough)
  • that we need to find some way of reducing emissions from deforestation (probably by paying countries to reduce deforestation relative to a historic baseline, so giving the greatest rewards to the fastest deforesting countries)
  • that we need to do more to transfer low-carbon technologies to developing countries (but not a lot more, maintains the US).

The general feeling is that the Bali meeting was a success, at least relative to the very low expectations that had been placed upon it. But if this is success, well, give me failure! At least failure wouldgive us a chance to start again and devise an effective framework that really could cut greenhouse-gas emission effectively, whiledelivering the goods on adaptation, forests, soils, peatlands,farming and the decisive shift we need to a low carbon global economy.

John Elkington, SustainAbility

The roads from Bali

As the battle-weary Bali veterans wend their ways home and begin to map out the path to Copenhagen in 2009 and beyond, there's one thing I'm sure of: among my New Year resolutions will be to stay well off the thundering highway that will take them there.

The instinct was reinforced by a diligent reading of the blogs of severalcolleagues as they gyrated dizzily around Bali's political roundabouts - among them Geoff Lye of SustainAbility and Peter Goldmark of Environmental Defense, as well David Steven of GlobalDeal and others. Their insider accounts of the Byzantine negotations made me even happier to be half a world away.

Bali was the latest exotic way-station in a journey that began even beforethe first Conference of the Parties (COP1)in Berlin in 1995 - squint into the rear-view mirrorand it includes the first United Nations environmental conference in Stockholm(1972), the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro (1992), Kyoto (1997) andthe World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg (2002). But, while I have worked off-and-on with UN agencies since 1975, I maintain my near-perfect scorecard in terms of UN jamborees missed.

JohnElkington is a founder and director of SustainAbilityand blogs here.

Also in openDemocracy:

John Elkington & Geoff Lye, "Climate change's right and wrong fixes"(2 February 2007)

The uncomfortable truth is that there is something about these great parades of the great and good - and not-so-great and not-so-good - that makes me uncomfortable. Too often it can seem that they combine good intentions within the packed conference-theatre with an almost wilful myopia on the part of key actors about the scale of the challenges facing us.

True, politics must play a central role in the tasks ahead - andgovernments have a responsibility to create new pricing mechanismsand carry through other market drivers of change. In particular, the outcome of the United States election in 2008 is crucial. How long will that once-great country toleratebeing told that the world is leading - and that it should eitherjoin, or get out of the way? Not beyond January 2009, we must hope.

But it's not conferences such as Bali or the political arena where- at least for me - the real action is. Instead of joining them, my own mind is turning to the question of how we can catalyse the scale of innovation and entrepreneurial problem-solving now required. Al Gore, preparing to join the venture capitalists Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers,expresses it well: "What we are going to have to put in placeis a combination of the Manhattan Project, the Apollo project and the Marshall Plan, and scale it globally."

So I plan to follow Al Gore's lead by plunging even deeper into the world of quantum-leap entrepreneurial solutions. Governments clearly played crucial roles in building the Manhattan project, the Apollo programme and the Marshall plan, but when the rubber really hit the road it all came down to the "unreasonable people"on the ground - and to their ambition, skills and courage. Today's equivalent of these extraordinary change-makers are the people we must now identify, celebrate and support - and few indeed trod the corridors of power in Bali.

David Steven, GlobalDeal

After Bali: watch the fast track

The conclusion of the Bali climate-change negotiations had it all. Bitter divisions between developing countries threatened to derail a final agreement. The United Nation's top official was reduced to tears by relentless Chinese criticism. And the United States played its customary role as pantomime villain, only to back down in face of derision from the crowd.

It was gripping stuff, to be sure. But the drama was also something of a distraction, disguising the real significance of what happened in Bali. Because, after the media, and more importantly the Americans, had gone home for the day, countries reconvened for a "shadow" negotiation. There a second "track" to the Bali roadmap was agreed - one that will be much travelled if we are to reach Copenhagen in 2009 with any hope of agreeing a global climate-change deal.

David Steven is a journalist, researcher and consultant. He is managing director of River Path Associates, and reported from the Bali summit for GlobalDeal

The "shadow" negotiations were attended by all countries that have ratified the Kyoto protocol, a club that, these days, leaves out only the United States, Turkey and a few minnows like Kazakhstan. And with US negotiators not in the room, the agreement struck was much more ambitious. Emissions should peak a decade from now and be reduced to "very low levels' by 2050. Industrialised countries must take the lead; by 2020, their emissions should be 25-40% below 1990 levels.

These figures are precisely the ones that scared the United States so badly. They were agreed to enthusiastically by the Europeans, who have already acted alone to set a 20% reduction target for 2020 and said they will go much further if others will. After a fortnight of dithering, the Australians, too, gave them strong support. Even the Canadians and Japanese, both of whom seem stung by their growing international isolation on the issue, offered grudging approval.

And here's the interesting bit. By early 2009, each country should have indicated the depth of emission cuts it is prepared to put on the table. That will give the Kyoto club something very powerful to take to a new American president, desperate to heal rifts caused by the George W Bush administration. It will also provide the "leadership" that could unlock a contribution from the major developing countries.

But there is no guarantee that this climate-change "fast track" will live up to expectations. The shape of a prospective deal is emerging, but governments will need to bring a strong mandate with them to Copenhagen if they are to accept it. That means getting right the political conditions at home. Cutting emissions to "very low levels" in forty or so years will require a massive social and political transition. After Bali, our attention needs to switch to garnering the will that is needed to underpin a new global deal.

Alun Anderson, author of The Future of the Arctic

The next two years

Was Bali a success? Absolutely not, unless you were one of the diplomats present who could reasonably define success as the avoidance of complete failure - and by a last-minute turnaround too. There is some good news. Thanks to pressure on the United States there is agreement to negotiate by 2009 a replacement to the Kyoto protocol that will include the US and China, which has probably already become the world's biggest greenhouse-gas emitter, and other rapidly developing nations. There is grudging acceptance of the Chinese and Indian argument that the developing nations are not responsible for the carbon-dioxide levels that have built up since the industrial revolution, and that they will not sacrifice their development because rich countries messed up the atmosphere first. And there is acceptance that finding a way to preserve tropical forests is very important.

The bad news is that the lack of leadership or even enthusiastic participation from the US means no targets have been set. There is no commitment that the US will do anything about its own emissions, which in turn means little pressure on China and India to strike deals that bring in energy efficiency alongside economic growth. Indeed the current US administration showed its true colours in the same week by stripping out key section from an energy bill that would have boosted renewable energy in the US.

Alun Anderson is a former editor-in-chief of New Scientist magazine and is currently writing a book on The Future of the Arctic to be published by HarperCollinsAlso in openDemocracy:Alun Anderson, "2007: reflections and predictions" (29 December 2007)

Let's be clear: without leadership from the US there is no chance of finding an effective replacement for the Kyoto protocol by 2009. That date is already very late given that the most recent figures show that world carbon-dioxide emissions are continuing to accelerate, even though they need to halve by 2050.

All eyes must now turn to what might change in the next two years. What will happen in the US? There is a common misconception in Europe that after the George W Bush administration there must be a quite different kind of president. But many presidential candidates have no commitment to a global climate agreement, or see it only through the lens of "US energy independence". Could something else change the game? The dream would be new energy technologies that make it easy to curb emissions. That's not impossible given the venture capital flowing into new ideas. The nightmare might, strangely enough, be a far better understanding of the regional details of climate change. We are only just beginning to get models that predict local changes in weather patterns and estimate "socio-climatic risk"; but it's possible that the US, where climate change looks likely to be moderate, could find it is better off using its wealth to adapt to climate change rather than prevent it.

The way forward remains to place international pressure on the US and to look for imaginative sets of solutions, not just binding emission caps, that make it easier to include developing nations.

Andrew Dobson, Keele University

The other failure

It is a historical tragedy that the greatest collective challenge humanity has ever faced has arrived just at the moment when the tools we require to deal with it are in disrepair and disrepute.

Bali was full of predictable sound and fury, with the usual suspects lining up to play the blame, name and shame game. As usual, the Americans came out of the encounter the worst. Even their apparent last-minute capitulation and readiness to play ball was tempered by their success in refusing to have binding targets written into the agreement, and by their continuing determination to deal in the currency of countries rather than individuals - thus putting the United States on a par with China despite Americans' much higher per capita emissions.

And of course the insults, ripostes, separations and makings-up matter, since they are rooted in real problems that demand real solutions. We've moved on a little since Kyoto, if only in that the problems have swum into sharper focus.

Andrew Dobson is professor of politics at Keele University. Among his books are Green Political Thought (Routledge, new edition, 2007). His website is here

Also in openDemocracy:
Andrew Dobson, "A climate of crisis: towards the eco-state" (19 September 2007)

One of these problems demands more attention than it gets - the means and mechanisms by which emissions will come down. It seems there is only one game in town - the game played by Climate Change Capital (CCC), a British carbon-trading investment bank. As a spokesman said: ‘this will create a very substantial market opportunity ... we will see the power of private money working for a moral purpose'.

Let's suspend disbelief for a moment. Since even if we do, we realise that private money does not operate in a legislative vacuum - and the only agency that can pass legislation is government, either alone or in conjunction with other governments. As the same CCC spokesman recognises: "now the hard part begins. Binding emission targets have to be set". The hard part indeed ... made harder by the thirty-year-old assault on the very legitimacy of government as states have been progressively hollowed out and what used to be called the new-right "doctrine" has become the untranscendable horizon for policy-making.

From this point of view it is a mistake to blame the Americans alone for resisting binding targets, since even when figures are on the table, governments can't make them stick in the face of the power of the "private money" that the CCC spokesman says will work for a "moral purpose". Money works to make more money, and moral purpose is no more than a potential side-effect - as German car companies are showing us at this very moment. The European commission, working in the name of its constitutive governments and their peoples, has set a mandatory target of 120g/km CO2 for private cars by 2012. But BMW and Daimler claim that "a 130g/km limit per vehicle through technology alone is not feasible". Odd, that, given that there are dozens of models already available which operate below that limit. So now there's a proposal on the table to uprate to 125g/km and put off the compliance date to 2015.

So just when we need strong, legitimate and legitimating, government, we find ourselves bereft of - even the idea of - it. In his October 2006 report, Nicholas Stern pointed out that climate change is the biggest example of market failure the world has ever seen. But the other problem is state failure - and this may be even more intractable.

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