International Policy Analyst Elizabeth Bast at the Talks
UPDATE # 1: The Start of Talks
December 3, 2007
Negotiations started today in Bali, Indonesia at the 13th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Over the next two weeks, countries are working to agree to a mandate for negotiating the second phase of the Kyoto Protocol, which currently requires signatories in industrialized countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by modest percentages below 1990 levels. The first phase of the Protocol will end in 2012, and agreements need to be made now to be able to negotiate the second phase.
There is now wide recognition that the next phase of commitments to reduce greenhouse gases will need to be much deeper to keep warming below two degrees Celsius. According to the science, above 2 degrees warming, dangerous climate change impacts are much more likely to occur. Over the next two weeks, delegates will working to lay the roadmap so that they can negotiate these deep emissions cuts. Also under discussion are the ways in which industrialized countries can assist developing countries in adapting to climate change and in reducing emissions, including the sharing of clean technologies and reducing deforestation. Deforestation, which accounts for as much as 25 percent of annual global emissions, is particularly high on the agenda for these meetings.
The test at the end of the two weeks will be to see if negotiators are able to reach an agreement on how to move forward on negotiations of a second phase of the Protocol. These negotiations will need to include critical issues like greenhouse gas emissions targets and financing for adaptation and greenhouse gas reductions in developing countries.
UPDATE #2: Australia Ratifies Kyoto, and the US is ALONE
December 4, 2007
Australia has now ratified the Kyoto Protocol and the United States is left as the only major country refusing to join the agreement. A recent change in government in Australia means that the US is now truly by itself in refusing to commit to this initial step towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
It didn't take long in the negotiations for countries to offer ideas on how to get the U.S. on board with the rest of the world. A proposal by China put forward today suggested that the US be put on an alternative industrialized country track under the negotiations. Pressure on the US to re-engage will certainly continue throughout the two weeks of negotiations, although we all know not to expect anything other than further stalling and blocking from the Bush administration.
The U.S. delegation has made it clear that it's not too keen on helping other countries, either. In response to a proposal for a fund that would help share clean energy technologies with developing countries, a U.S. official remarked, "we will not support a fund for the buy down of intellectual property." And although the delegation said that they support adaptation, U.S. officials made it clear that they will not provide any funding to the two voluntary adaptation funds under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
UPDATE #3: Climate-Affected Communities Speak Out
Wednesday, December 5
UN climate conferences are a bit overwhelming. The negotiations, which are divided into several tracks that go on simultaneously throughout the two weeks, are awash in a sea of acronyms (SBSTA, SBI, AWG, etc.) and issue areas (adaptation, deforestation, technology transfer, clean development mechanism). Beyond the actual discussions between governments, there are numerous press conferences, side events, and even protests and demonstrations going on outside.
Friends of the Earth worked to bring the voices of people affected by climate change to the conference by holding a side event featuring people from the Carteret Islands, Haiti, and Indonesia speaking about how climate change is affecting them.
The Carteret Islands are immediately in danger of disappearing as a result of climate change, creating a situation of climate refugees with nowhere to turn as their islands are threatened by severe storms and sea level rise. In Haiti, people are suffering from changes in weather patterns, which can wipe out the rain-fed, subsistence agriculture that feeds most of the country. In Indonesia, where deforestation creates substantial greenhouse gas emissions, questions have focused on the drivers of climate change - not the local people, who often live quite sustainably, but the large corporations cutting down forests for export to consuming countries.
Friends of the Earth International has released a report on climate affected communities around the world:
VOICES FROM COMMUNITIES AFFECTED BY CLIMATE CHANGE
UPDATE #4: The World Bank's Climate Change Shenanigans
Thursday, December 6
The World Bank is one of the most well known providers of financing to developing countries for "development" projects. But over the years, the Bank has shown time and again that it sees development finance as being more about helping large multinational corporations set up shop in developing countries than it is about helping people out of poverty.
With the rising awareness and urgency of climate change, the World Bank sees another business opportunity. It has already put itself in charge of several carbon finance funds - the Bank facilitates setting up projects in developing countries that will hypothetically reduce future carbon emissions in exchange for money from Europe and other industrialized countries. But these projects have proven incredibly problematic. Not only does it give industrialized countries a way out of reducing their own emissions internally, but many projects perpetuate or cause environmental and social problems on their own.
The Bank has also been appointed by the G8 to take a lead on "clean energy" financing for the developing world. But at the same time it claims to care about clean energy, the Bank continues to finance billions of greenhouse gas producing fossil fuel projects each year. And the proposals by the bank for clean energy financing emphasize false solutions, like carbon capture and storage and large hydropower. With these plans, the Bank will continue to push governments into costly projects that will benefit large industries and will not help people.
Jubilee South, a campaign for debt cancellation in developing countries, is holding a conference on financial institutions, climate and debt during the UN Conference. I spoke on a panel today explaining the hypocrisies of the World Bank and other financial institutions with regard to climate change.
Debt and the problems of climate change are incredibly interlinked. Debts have been created from financing for fossil fuel projects pushed on poor governments by financial institutions. These projects destroy the local environment and peoples' livelihoods in addition to perpetuating climate change. Climate change then comes back to harm developing countries through weather problems and agricultural impacts, further threatening development.
Jubilee South has picked up on these themes and created an appropriate slogan: "Debts that contribute to climate change are illegitimate." And I even got a cool t-shirt saying so!
UPDATE #5: Black and White and REDD All Over
Friday, December 7
REDD stands for Reduced Emissions from Deforestation in Developing Countries. It is a big issue at the UN negotiations, because deforestation accounts for as much as 25 percent of annual greenhouse gas emissions globally.
But one of the major proposals on the table is to allow deforestation projects into the clean development mechanism - the carbon finance scheme of the Kyoto Protocol. There are several big issues with this, even beyond the basic problem that this would allow industrialized countries to buy their way out of meaningful emissions reductions at home. Additionally, this sort of scheme would encourage the "locking up" of forest areas to reduce emissions. In many developing countries, indigenous people live in and rely on forest areas, and could be kicked off their land because of these sorts of projects.
These schemes are also set up, again, to benefit large forestry and agricultural corporations. In Indonesia, these corporations have concessions covering more than 130 million acres of forest land. Incentives from REDD could promote investments in monoculture tree plantations or palm plantations, which raise environmental concerns with chemical use and water depletion, in addition to severely threatening biodiversity.
And not surprisingly, the World Bank is at it again. They are unveiling a Forest Carbon Partnership Facility during these meetings that would promote exactly these projects.
Instead, developing countries should be encouraged and supported financially to focus on strengthening currently weak conservation policies and institutions, and in addressing corruption and lack of enforcement. Governments should also be encouraged to enact bans or moratoria on industrial logging and forest conversion, particularly in old growth forests.
UPDATE #6: Global Day of Action for Climate Justice
Saturday, December 8
Friends of the Earth is focusing not only on what is going on inside the talks in Bali, but is also working closely with social movements and others outside the negotiations to build a movement to demand climate justice. WALHI/Friends of the Earth Indonesia, which is a network of 400 local organizations in Indonesia, is one of Friends of the Earth's largest member groups. They have been fantastic in supporting our international Friends of the Earth team here in Bali (which is about 30 strong), and they have also done substantial work to raise awareness in Indonesia around climate change - an issue that is relatively new to many people in the country.
Friends of the Earth International and WALHI/Friends of the Earth Indonesia joined a delegation from Via Campesina, a global network of farmers, small producers and landless peasants, and other organizations in a rally of over 1300 people in Bali to demand action on climate change. The colorful march called on industrial countries to adopt strong emissions targets, and also to step up to their obligations to help developing countries adapt to climate change. They also called for an end to false solutions, like biofuels and carbon trading.
In an interview with Real World Radio, Henry Saraghi, the international coordinator of Via Campesina and the leader of Peasant Organizations of Indonesia said, "For us is very important to say to the governments that are meeting in the hotel that if they continue to solve the problems of the global warming based on the market, the global warming problem can't be solved. The same thing happens with the hunger in the world".
As part of this Global Day of Action on climate change, WALHI/Friends of the Earth Indonesia organized rallies all over the country to call for climate justice.
UPDATE #7: To GEF or Not to GEF? That is the Question on Adaptation
Sunday, December 9
One of the big items being discussed in Bali is an Adaptation Fund that would help developing countries deal with problems arising from climate change - severe weather events, droughts, flooding, impacts on food and water, and other development challenges that will be made worse as a result of global warming.
We've heard a little bit about the World Bank's interest in climate change as the next big global business opportunity and the questionable responses that have emerged. Now the Global Environmental Facility, an institution closely associated with the Bank, wants to manage the UN's Adaptation Fund. The Global Environmental Facility has already been involved with adaptation projects under other funds.
A recent analysis by ActionAid USA says the Global Environmental Facility funding "falls short on… democratic governance, civil society participation, sustainable funding, and access for the most vulnerable." It also says "burdensome requirements of increased reporting, additional criteria, and co-financing may deny access to some countries and vulnerable communities."
One of the biggest problems with the Global Environmental Facility is governance, which is based on one dollar, one vote, where larger donor governments get a disproportionate say in where the money goes. Using this governance structure would mean that the United States, which has not given any money to adaptation under the UN climate convention, and would not be contributing under this proposal either, would be very influential in where the money from the fund goes.
Nevertheless, the European Union is pushing hard for the Global Environmental Facility to be the implementing agency for the Adaptation Fund. Some developing countries that would be eligible for the funding are pushing hard for a more independent structure, particularly with regards to governance of the fund. A decision on the governance of the fund should be made before the end of the conference.
UPDATE #8: US Congress Leading on International Climate Change?
Monday, December 10
Senator Kerry arrived in Bali today, trumpeting the Lieberman-Warner climate bill as an indication that the United States is ready to take a lead on climate change internationally. Although the bill is an indication that the United States is changing course on climate change, in the context of these negotiations, the bill does not go far enough.
The European Union is pushing targets for industrialized countries of 25-40 percent under 1990 levels by 2020. The Lieberman-Warner bill only gets the U.S. to around 13 percent reductions by 2020. With the bill's giveaways to the coal industry and carbon capture and storage, money that could go toward the energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies we need to achieve these targets cost effectively is wasted. And money generated from the auction of emissions credits in the bill does not go towards technology sharing in developing countries and only gives moderate amounts to adaptation funding for vulnerable communities. These components are absolutely essential for U.S. climate legislation to show leadership in the international context.
Climate negotiators in Bali should recognize that a shift is happening in the U.S. government and should welcome it and look forward to 2009. But the U.S. Congress needs to make sure and get this right. Lieberman-Warner does not go far enough to make the U.S. a leader in the international community, and we need to look ahead to a better, stronger climate bill.
A bill with emissions reductions targets in line with the international community and 100 percent auction of emissions credits would be a start. It is also essential that the auction revenue go to the right places to solve the climate crisis domestically and internationally: investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy, a just transition from fossil fuels to new sources of energy, support for smart land use and transportation, AND sufficient funding for no-strings-attached technology sharing, adaptation, and forest protection in developing countries. We need to get this right domestically to rejoin the rest of the world with climate legislation and show leadership in a way that we can be proud of.
UPDATE #9: Richest Country in the World Won't Help Its Neighbors
Tuesday, December 11
The Bush administration is once again holding things up in the international climate negotiations. In fact, the United States won the Fossil of the Day award today - a daily award given by the NGO community for doing really stupid things during the UN negotiations. Today's award went to the United States for:
- Trying to remove the call for "sufficient, predictable, additional and sustainable financial resources for" adaptation in future discussions under the UN convention
- Flatly declaring that the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change is "not a sustainable development convention"
- Trying, in a press conference yesterday, to raise doubts about the Nobel-winning IPCC's science by claiming "many uncertainties surrounded" the IPCC's analysis due to its examination of only "a small subset" of possible climate change scenarios
- Falsely claiming that to include an ambitious goal for industrialized country emission reductions in the next round of discussions would be to "start out with a predetermined answer" to the outcome of the negotiations
- And, most of all, for saying that the 25-40% cuts by 2020 are "totally unrealistic for many countries."
Also today, Friends of the Earth U.S., along with partner organizations, released our "Climate and Development Principles" that call on the (apparently currently deaf) U.S. government to:
- Act now to do its fair share to reduce its contribution to global warming emissions.
- Take responsibility to provide assistance to help developing countries adapt to the consequences of global warming.
- Work collaboratively with other nations to address climate change and the critical links between global warming and global poverty.
- Shift to a more sustainable domestic energy path, as well as support other nations in their shift to a more sustainable energy and climate path.
Full principles and signatories available here.
Special Update: To GEF or Not to GEF
In other news, a decision on the Adaptation Fund was made last night. Although the Global Environmental Facility prevailed in managing the fund, an independent governance structure was put into place, ensuring representation in decisionmaking from countries that will be hardest hit by climate change. And the decision to house the Adaptation Fund at the Global Environmental Facility will be revisited in 3 years. Not enough, but at the very least, it sounds like the Fund will move forward.
UPDATE #10: What will the High Level Ministers Do?
Wednesday, December 12
The intensity level kicked up a notch today. More people, more security, two separate entry lines for "heads of state" and "participants." The high level segment has started with a series of speeches from country representatives today and tomorrow. But while the ministers speak, the negotiations are still ongoing behind closed doors. The high level representatives who have just arrived have their work cut out for them to reach an agreement. Japan, Canada and the United States have taken actions over the last several days suggesting they are not at all interested in reaching agreement at these talks. These governments are working to remove text on emissions reductions from industrialized countries, while Canada has insisted that developing countries take on legally binding emission reductions goals. The United States has also openly blocked a proposal for a multi-lateral technology sharing fund - one of the key pieces that could help developing countries shift to cleaner technologies. By attacking this fund, and by taking previous actions to block language about ensuring funding for adaptation needs in the most vulnerable countries, the U.S. seems to be taking all incentives for developing countries out of the discussion. It's clear the U.S. has no plans to live up to its responsibility to the rest of the world on climate change. All this and it's the 10th anniversary of the Kyoto Protocol today - happy birthday?!?
Real World Radio
FOE International Blog
UPDATE #11: Climate Business vs. Climate Justice
Thursday, December 13
Negotiations continued today, largely behind closed doors, with technology transfer for developing countries at the top of the agenda. Rumors are that some agreement has been reached, at least on technology transfer, but it?s unclear whether the final proposal will truly bring things forward towards addressing climate change and the needs of developing countries or whether the meaning has been taken out of the agreement and developing countries have given up fighting. But it now looks like agreement may well be reached tomorrow.
As I sit back and think over the past two weeks, two trends have struck me in observing this summit:
On the one hand, there is an incredible business interest represented--in side events on carbon trading, in the fact that there was a parallel trade ministers meeting during the talks, in expressions by the U.S. delegation that they are more concerned about intellectual property rights than the climate, in the influence of international financial institutions in promoting a variety of climate "solutions," and in a variety of other ways.
On the other hand, there has been an emerging presence of groups questioning the corporate control over climate responses. A small but growing group of civil society organizations, along with representatives of social movements, affected peoples, farmers, fisherfolk, and indigenous peoples, are questioning how climate change is being dealt with and speaking with increasingly loud voices to call for climate justice.
We have seen it in the Indonesian Civil Society Forum located outside the formal talks, where Indonesian organizations held a series of events during the first week and a half of the summit. We have seen it in the demonstrations ? some of the first ever in Indonesia on climate change ? on the Global Day of Action. We have seen it in the other alternative events that have gone on parallel to the summit, on debt, on solidarity, questioning carbon trading. And we have seen it in the civil society organizations on the inside of the talks, questioning where the money is going and who stands to benefit or suffer from the climate crisis.
It has been inspiring to see these groups coming together to challenge the ways in which climate change is being addressed globally. It is imperative that we reduce greenhouse gas emissions globally to protect ourselves from the most severe impacts of climate change, but HOW we do this is just as important. We need to confront climate change in a way that will protect vulnerable people both in developing countries and in the industrialized world. We need to find ways to promote human rights, human development, and local solutions in addition to protecting our environment.
We have a long way to go, but I am hopeful that these alliances and these messages of climate justice will start to be heard more powerfully following these talks.
UPDATE # 12: Not Over Yet: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (in reverse order)
December 14, 2007
Halfway through the night Thursday -- well after normal work hours ? the U.S. delegation put out a proposal designed to stall the negotiations. It wasn?t just your average difficult negotiating point. They actually threatened to make the whole discussion of reducing greenhouse gas emissions voluntary for all countries. Meaning, the over 30 countries that have already agreed to emissions reductions under the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol would go back to voluntary emissions targets. Meaning, there would be no targets at all for emissions reductions from industrialized countries. Meaning, in all likelihood, the planet would cook - ugly.
Oddly enough, just before press deadlines in the United States, the U.S. delegation pulled this proposal off the table. Interesting timing? But they succeeded in being incredibly obstructionist at a very inconvenient time. Very poor form, embarrassing, obnoxious, and one of the ugliest parts of these talks.
Many of the substantive issues under discussion here in Bali seem to be agreed, but they don?t go far enough. If there is a mandate to go forward with discussions on the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, after 2012, it will be a shell of what it could have been. Nearly continuous blocking on the part of the United States, Japan, and Canada on issues like funding and plans for adaptation and technology sharing means that the negotiations will start at square one on these critical issues for developing countries. Beyond that, it is still very unclear what will happen to the emissions targets discussion, and that is very bad.
Another critical issue on the mitigation side not agreed to during the two weeks -- not the most contentious at these talks, but a major issue going forward -- was emissions reductions for international air travel and shipping. Failing to deal with these substantial and growing emissions sources is also deserves a bad mention.
There has to be something good in all this, right? Well, maybe better to ask tomorrow, when perhaps ministers will pull something out of their hats to bring these talks towards some sort of conclusion. The good I did see this week within the negotiations was a sincere willingness of nearly all parties other than the United States -- and particularly the developing countries and the European Union -- to work towards a strong global agreement on global warming. Unfortunately, it is looking like the bad and the ugly may hold sway right now.
UPDATE # 13: Taking Stock
December 15, 2007
Agreement was reached and the conference ended this afternoon around 5:30 pm -- a full day late.
Never in my life have I seen such a display of political bullying as the United States undertook over the two weeks of this conference. The U.S. delegation, representing the richest and most capable country in the world, gutted just about everything of meaning from the roadmap going forward to tackle global climate change. For much of the last day, the U.S. negotiators continued to nitpick -- in plenary, with all the nations present and in front of outside observers. The delegation persisted in blocking language that India and Bangladesh spoke to on behalf of developing countries, and that many understood had been agreed to the previous night.
The United States said it could not accept the changes because the text had been carefully negotiated in a way that they felt 'balanced' the statement. South Africa then asked the United States to reconsider, stating very clearly that developing countries had made substantial compromises over the course of negotiations, not the least of which included accepting "measurable, reportable and verifiable" obligations on climate change -- a very serious step for developing countries.
A number of impassioned interventions followed in the plenary session with Uganda literally begging the United States to change its mind and Papua New Guinea stating, "if you are not willing to lead, then get out of the way." Following this round of interventions, the United States finally conceded the point. While this show of "goodwill" and "cooperation" received a loud applause, and there was clear elation that a compromise had been reached and the United States had been forced to back down, I can't help but be a bit cynical.
But to turn the negative into the positive, there *is* a roadmap to move forward with international climate negotiations. The roadmap is currently weak, but it could potentially be strengthened. Countries that are parties to the Kyoto Protocol, including nearly all industrialized countries except the United States, even agreed to negotiate around a numerical range of reductions of greenhouse gas emissions of 25 to 40 percent under 1990 levels by 2020 -- a particularly strong target. There was clearly good will on the part of developing countries and the European Union to address this crisis.
It was also extremely heartening to watch growing awareness among participants for the real needs of developing countries in confronting the climate crisis. There was a very strong civil society presence -- inside and outside the actual conference center -- highlighting the impacts of climate change on global poverty and demanding a just response to the problems of climate change. A group of organizations, including Friends of the Earth International, came together as the conference ended in a call for Climate Justice Now.
Inside negotiations, there was a noticeable and seemingly growing strength in the voices of developing country representatives in demanding fair treatment on climate change -- culminating in the last day of taking the United States to task in the plenary session. Those countries that will be hardest hit but are least responsible for climate change will need to continue to speak out loudly and often if we are to have an equitable and just response to this problem. There is a long way to go, but perhaps there is some hope for the future.
And there is always the possibility that the next U.S. administration will take our climate responsibility to our neighbors around the world more seriously. The United Nations is one arena where the President has clear control over the delegates and the messages sent, so the administration has a great deal of say in international climate discussions. Remember to keep that in mind when you vote!