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Deal or no deal?

About the author
Chris Littlecott is Project Coordinator for E3G’s ‘Europe in the World’work. He is the managing editor for the openDemocracy section 'Global Deal: the politics of climate change'.

It seems that the confusion in Bali is still not yet over, not even for the BBC's news gathering resources.

Just over an hour ago, the Bali negotiations were the first item on the Radio 5 Live news bulletin, for what seems like the first time this week. They quoted UK Environment Minister Hilary Benn as saying that a deal had still not been reached.

Yet over on the BBC website, the latest news on their Bali section is that

[quote]Negotiators at the UN climate summit in Bali have adjourned talks, with the UN senior climate official saying they were "on the brink" of a deal.[/quote]

Now, I've just been watching the BBC's flagship Newsnight programme. Their opening item is on Bali, with a report on the current state of play from their science correspondent Susan Watt.

I'll provide a link to their video report just as soon as it hits their site, but for starters here's my quick notes on who said what (nothing verbatim):

  • An exhasted-looking Hilary Benn gives the same quote as I heard on the radio - that there were 2 teams working on the details, but negotiations were still continuing. (This must have been recorded as he was leaving the negotiations late last night).
  • Next up (and without my prior knowledge I have to underline) is my E3G colleague Tom Burke. He sets out his view on why there is such resistence from the USA: the rightwing political project has identified that climate change, and the response to it ,is a major threat to their agenda of small government, limited regulation, and low taxation.
  • Saleemul Huq of IIED (and an openDemocracy author) points out that China et al are willing to come on board if the US takes the lead. He returns a few minutes later to highlight how there are other voices from US who have been much more prominent in Bali - not least Al Gore.
  • John Sauven of Greenpeace UK states that binding targets for developed countries must be at the core of any succesful deal, before returning to point out how all of this stalling is eating up time which is not on our side.

Then it's over to the BBC's Environment Analyst Roger Harrabin live from the Bali early morning.

He says that he thinks a deal will be achieved, and that the Indonesian team are talking to last few stragglers. Delegations are expected to return with an hour and a half or so to start final discussions.

His understanding is that the EU has had to make severe concessions to get a deal. So what of substance is left? It's not just the likely absence of targets - the language of 'commitments' has been changed to 'actions'.

Last night, the EU spokesman had been bullish that the targets the EU wanted to see would be in the document, but will they now be consigned to a footnote? Harrabin asks if the Bali declaration will really set out a clear roadmap that pegs politicians to the science?

Back to Emily Maitlis in the Newsnight Studio for a live interview via satellite with Kurt Volker, deputy assistant secretary of state in the US State Department. He immediately says that the USA is commited to agreeing a deal, but that policies need to be in place to sustain a goal. It's one thing to have a number, another to make it work.

But does the US accept the need for targets?, he is asked, What about the calls from the IPCC science for cuts of 25-40% by 2020?

Volker's response: the USA has accepted need to make substantial reductions.

But does the US accept that range?

Volker: Under George W Bush they've set a target to reduce gasoline consumption by 20%. That's a real policy. Oh, and the USA are one of the largest funders of climate science research apparently.

Questioned again: when will US emissions actually go down?

Answer: But no one can tell you how that will happen. We've had Kyoto targets but emissions have risen across the board. So you've got to have actual policies that produce results.

Maitlis again: without even a headline commitment, how you can you possibly make this work? The ministers in Bali are putting the pieces of the jigsaw together, and waiting for the administration to change - you are becoming irrelevant... [great metaphor by the way]

Volker: But it's not just the US. Numerical caps don't apply to developing countries, other developed countried are in support.

Maitlis: As you may have heard in our report, China & Inda are happy to take action, but look to the US as global leader to set the pace.

Volker: We are very happy to join with others to set out post-2012 framework (includes plenty of suggestions but nothing sounds very concrete). The US has a comparable rate of emissions growth as Europe.

Update: you can now view tonight's newsnight programme online by clicking 'Watch latest programme' on their homepage.

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