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Climate Change

UN climate change conference ends with agreement on ‘Bali Roadmap’

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Yusof Sulaiman  Dec 17, 2007

Delegates to the United Nations-sponsored climate change conference in Bali ended their marathon discussions, which were at times emotional, by agreeing on a roadmap for a post-2012 agreement to tackle climate change.

The "Bali Roadmap" agreement contains, among others, text on emissions cuts and transfer of clean technology to developing countries.

Hailing the agreement as "an historic breakthrough", British Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said: "For the first time ever all the world's nations have agreed to negotiate on a deal to tackle dangerous climate change concluding in 2009. What we have achieved here has never been done."

The British environment secretary also said: "We came here saying we wanted a roadmap that included every country and covered emission reductions from developed countries and fair and equitable contributions from developing countries. We leave here with all of this and more, a groundbreaking agreement on deforestation and others on adaptation and technology."

The agreement followed an 11th-hour dramatic u-turn by the United States, which had earlier threatened to block the deal. The US dropped its opposition to calls by poorer countries for technological and financial help to combat climate change.

Plunging the dagger into the US psyche, former US Vice President Al Gore, joint Nobel Peace Prize winner, blamed the US for obstructing progress at the Bali climate change conference in its search for a post-Kyoto Protocol pact. Drawing loud cheers and applause from delegates at the 190-nation talks, Gore told delegates, "My own country, the US, is principally responsible for obstructing progress in Bali."

He also said, "I don't know how you can navigate around this enormous elephant in the room which I have been undiplomatic enough to name, but I am asking you to do it." Gore urged governments to forge a "new path" towards a global climate agreement.

The European Union had earlier accused the US of “lacking ambition" to launch negotiations on a new global climate treaty. "We are not blackmailing Washington, but if no Bali, no major economies meeting in Hawaii," said Portuguese Secretary of State for Environment Humberto Rosa,. "It would be meaningless to have a major economies meeting in the US."

President George W. Bush is inviting 17 of the world's top emitting countries, including Asian economic giants China and India, to Hawaii late next month to discuss long-term curbs on greenhouse emissions, while Washington hosted a similar meeting last September which attracted only a "few" delegates from abroad.

The US, Japan and Canada are jointly opposing any figures put forward that would "prejudge the outcome" at Bali where the EU is pushing for a non-binding agreement to cut emissions between 25-40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 for industrial economies.
To break the impasse, the EU and China, on behalf of developing economies, agreed to drop its demands from the final draft, and soften language on commitments from developing countries.

"We don't feel comments like that are constructive,” Kristin Hellmer, White House spokesman at the Bali talks, said. "We are working hard to find common ground. President George Bush intends the Honolulu meeting as part of a series to come up with plans for curbs to feed into the UN process, to be completed after he steps down in January 2009.

"The problem of climate change cannot be adequately addressed through commitments for emissions cuts by developed countries alone. Major developing economies must act likewise."

Despite insisting the EU proposal would prejudge the Kyoto Protocol's successor, Hellmer insisted that "I think we will have an agreement. I am always optimistic."

The UN head of Framework Convention on Climate Change, which organized the talks, however, praised the US for showing a great deal of flexibility. "The US is trying to be sensitive to the positions of others, and is keen as everybody else to make sure it walks away from here with a deal that includes all," said Yvo de Boer.

Delegates from environmental groups have criticized the final draft agreement as weak and a "missed opportunity."

"I have never seen such a flip-flop in an environment treaty context,"
said Bill Hare of Greenpeace, in a statement on the Bali Roadmap. "The US has been humiliated by the overwhelming message by developing countries, humiliated by the world community."

Not giving much hope to an agreement for a post-2012 Kyoto Protocol pact hammered out in Bali, Fernando Tudela, Mexico's delegate to the talks, said Bali is just a "warm-up" for the scheduled talks in Copenhagen. "The mother of all battles will be in 2009."

Delegates, nonetheless, have hailed the agreement as a crucial development in the world's struggle to come to grips with global warming. "This is a real breakthrough, a real opportunity for the international community to successfully fight climate change," added de Boer, in between tears after being accused by China of "procedural irregularities."

Details of a comprehensive global climate deal will be tabled at the Copenhagen talks in 2009.

UN climate change conference ends with agreement on ‘Bali Roadmap’

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