[Vision2020] Attendees At UN Climate Conference Pay For Conference Associated CO2 Emissions

nickgier at adelphia.net nickgier at adelphia.net
Sat Dec 15 12:24:25 PST 2007


Most of us have long lost our patience with a president who substitutes stubborness for leadership, and now world leaders in Bali have finally had it with Bush's stalling and bullying.  His administration refused to sign Kyoto and then walked out of a climate conference in 2005.  I especially hope that call from his unwilling back massage partner, Germany's Angela Merkle, shamed him into telling his delegates in Bali to compromise. Bush's "Our Way or the Hiway" will not work any more, and he will take down his party with him, and it will take years for other nations to trust or respect us.

Nick Gier

December 16, 2007, The New York Times
Late Reversal by U.S. Yields Climate Plan

NUSA DUA, Indonesia — In a tumultuous final session at international climate talks in which the United States delegates were booed and hissed, the world’s nations committed Saturday to negotiating a new accord by 2009 that, in theory, would set the world on a course toward halving emissions of heat-trapping gases by 2050.

The dramatic finish to the negotiations came after a last-minute standoff during a day of see-saw emotions, with the co-organizer of the conference, Yvo de Boer, fleeing the podium at one point as he held back tears and the representative from Papua New Guinea telling the American delegation to lead, follow or “please get out of the way.”

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

The United States did capitulate in that open session, which many observers and delegates said included more public acrimony and emotion than any of the treaty conferences since 1992, when countries drafted the ailing original climate pact, the Framework Convention on Climate Change.

In a broader sense, the closing session of the two-week negotiation here was the culmination of a profound shift over the course of months by the Bush administration from insisting that the 1992 treaty, signed by President Bush’s father, was sufficient on its own 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 over new steps to improve on that pact.

But since then, the science, and politics, of climate have shifted dramatically.

This year, a set of four reports emerged from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, each cementing more clearly than ever that humans were warming the world, and that unabated emissions would lead to centuries of disrupted climate patterns, rising seas and ecological and social harm.

Along with the science came the Oscar-winning film “An Inconvenient Truth;” Hurricane Katrina, which while not linked to global warming in itself, was a vivid and effective icon; and spiking oil prices, adding urgency to calls for moving away from fossil fuels. Finally, the Supreme Court rejected the Bush administration’s contention that carbon dioxide was not a pollutant under the purview of the Environmental Protection Agency.

In May, President Bush signaled the change in his stance most powerfully when he announced his own parallel set of meetings with the countries accounting for 85 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. In Bali, European delegates threatened to pull out of those talks unless the Bush delegation agreed to keep some semblance of concrete targets in the outline for the next two years of talks.

Those targets remain in the agreement — including a possible cut in rich countries’ emissions of up to 40 percent by 2020 and overall emissions cut in half by 2050 — but they are now a footnote to the nonbinding preamble, not a main feature of the negotiating “road map.”

In all of this, the Bush administration did not, in the end, have to shift overall from its most staunchly defended goal, which was that it would only agree to a comprehensive new accord that maintained flexibility, allowing nations to agree on a rough goal for global emissions, but using any mix of means at the national level to get there.

The most tense and emotional moments of the two-week conference came during the morning and early afternoon Saturday, 24 hours after a deal was supposed to have been reached.

Delegates said seven years of pent up frustrations over the Bush administration’s standoffish attitude toward global-warming agreements spilled out into the final, public session of the meeting, particularly over the issue of the role of developing nations.

The delegate from Uganda urged the American negotiators to change their minds. “I would like to beg them,” said Maria Mutagamba, minister of environment.

Delegates piled on, cheering speakers who criticized the United States and booing the leader of the American delegation, Undersecretary of State Paula J. Dobriansky, when she spoke.

“I’ve been following these negotiations for 20 years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Alden Meyer, the director of policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, an American nonprofit group.

As so often happens in such complex worldwide negotiations, the last-minute standoff that inspired such emotions would look trivial to an outside observer.

The dispute centered on the placement of the three words: “measurable, reportable and verifiable.” It was significant because it focused on the role developing countries should have in combating climate change.

The United States is pushing for developing countries to take a more active role in reducing greenhouse emissions. India submitted a last-minute amendment that, by shifting the placement of those three words, attempted to sharpen the distinction between poor and rich countries in the text and thus, in the eyes of many delegates, play down the role of poorer countries.

Delegates from several developing countries spoke in support of the change. The European Union representative also backed the change “as a sign of the spirit of the cooperation.”

But the United States delegation voiced its disapproval.

“The formulation that has been put forward we cannot accept because it does represent a significant change in the balance that many of us have worked toward over the last week,” Ms. Dobriansky said. Loud boos echoed among the thousands of delegates in the convention hall.

When the delegate from Papua New Guinea, Kevin Conrad, asked to speak, opposition to the United States had reached a crescendo.

“We seek your leadership,” he said referring to the United States. “But if for some reason you are not willing to lead, leave it to the rest of us. Please, get out of the way.”

South Africa, Mali, Brazil, Jamaica, Uganda and Tanzania followed with statements supporting India’s position or that of developing countries more generally.

None of America’s traditional allies came to its defense, including Japan, which offered a noncommittal statement that amounted to an abstention.

Ms. Dobriansky then spoke again.

“We came here to Bali because we want to go forward as part of a new framework, we believe we have a shared vision and we want to move that forward, we want a success here in Bali,” she said. “We will go forward and join consensus.”

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

Kapil Sibal, the Indian minister of science and technology, thanked the United States for “coming on board.”

Xie Zhenhua, China’s lead delegate at the conference, took the floor and welcomed on the United States “onto this bus.”

But he quickly added: “The United States is not in the driver’s seat.”

Peter Gelling contributed reporting.

More information about the Vision2020 mailing list