05 December, 2007

All eyes on Bali for a crucial breakthrough on climate change

Bali, the “island of the Gods,” is a prime example of the beauty of our natural environment. At the same time, Indonesia has first-hand experience of the extreme weather events caused by climate change. Bali is therefore a poignant setting for the forthcoming crucial international negotiations on the way forward to save our planet from the devastating effects of global warming.

Developing countries - not least in Asia - are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change due to their large populations and their high exposure to sea level rise, storm surges and river flooding. What we are facing is, in fact, not only an environmental problem, but has much wider implications: For economic growth, water and food security, and for people's survival - especially those living in the poorest communities. The recent joint award of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize to the IPCC for its work in disseminating knowledge on climate change underlines the implications for overall peace and security.

What Bali can deliver

What is needed is a breakthrough in the form of a roadmap for a new international agreement on enhanced global action to fight climate change in the period after 2012, the year the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol expires. The Bali conference will not deliver a fully negotiated and agreed climate deal, but is aimed at setting the necessary wheels in motion. In order to avoid a gap after the end of the Protocol’s first phase in 2012, the negotiations will need to conclude in 2009 to allow enough time for ratification.

The benchmark for success

A new international climate deal that addresses the interests of both developed and developing countries will make everyone a winner. The world is now watching and waiting for results. If a decision to launch negotiations is taken, if an agenda for negotiations is agreed, and if an end-date for completing negotiations is set, then Bali will have been a success. Anything short of that will constitute a failure. The spirit of Bali lies in the appreciation of its people for “Ibu Pertiwi” (mother earth) and also in the principle of collectivity. In this spirit, we must take a collective step forward.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government of President George W. Bush is heading for a rough ride during a major international conference about the planet's future that began this week on the Indonesian resort island of Bali.

The most visible pressure is expected to come from environmental groups assembled at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, which runs from Dec. 3-14. The activists' choice to single out Washington was made easier on the first day of the summit, with an announcement by Australia's newly-elected government that it was breaking ranks with the United States and joining nations that had ratified the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

That Washington has not budged on the international front was clear during the opening day of the U.N. conference, which has attracted some 10,000 government officials, delegates from international organisations, private sector representatives and activists. There was hardly a hint that the U.S. government was expected to bridge the divide on the crucial issue of greenhouse gas (GhG) emissions spelled out in the Kyoto Protocol.

The Bush administration has refused to ratify the protocol due to language that calls on 36 industrialised countries to impose mandatory cuts on GhGs, which have contributed to global warming. The target set was a five percent cut below the 1990 GhG emission rates by 2012.

Washington favours voluntary cuts on emissions, despite the U.S. being a leading emitter of these heat-trapping gases that are expected to wreck havoc across the planet in coming years. All 27 member nations of the European Union, on the other hand, have embraced the binding commitments of the protocol and have introduced plans to cut GhG emissions by 20 percent by 2020.

''The administration is hoping to package its old voluntary policies by bringing some new faces to Bali to sell them,'' Angela Anderson, director of NET's climate programme, said in an e-mail interview from Nusa Dua. ''They are proposing ideas that were wisely rejected at (the 1992 U.N. summit in) Rio (de Janeiro) as unworkable.''

''The U.S. claims it wants to be constructive, so we hope that they continue to participate in the UNFCCC discussions on adaptation and deforestation and stay out of the discussion of (GhG) emissions ranges that is taking place among the Kyoto signatories,'' she added. ''The U.S. should be held responsible for trying to derail the mitigation discussion if that's what they do.''

The Bali summit is expected to secure commitments to cut GhGs after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. U.N. officials hope that negotiations for the post-Kyoto agreement will take two years to finalise, thus giving countries sufficient time to ratify the agreement for a smooth transition.

This challenge was highlighted by Rachmat Witoelar, Indonesia's environment minister and the president of the current conference, on the opening day.

''The scientific debate has been conclusively laid to rest by the latest scientific findings from the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC): climate change is unequivocal and accelerating,'' he said. ''Whilst the launch of negotiations and a clear deadline of 2009 to end the negotiations would constitute a breakthrough, anything short of that would constitute a failure.''

In their report, the global network of scientists who are members of the IPCC warned that the level of GhGs emitted into the atmosphere must stabilise by 2015 and then start declining to avoid an environmental catastrophe. Failure, they added, would lead to the deaths of millions of people, mostly in the developing world, from extreme climate conditions ranging from a rise in sea levels to natural disasters and droughts.

Little wonder, then, why environmentalists fear Washington's position in Bali may put a brake on the negotiations and help make the grim forecast of the IPCC a reality.

''All nations have a vital self-interest in getting the next round (of the protocol) going, and they shouldn't let the same old story from the U.S. be an excuse for a weak start to the post 2012 negotiations,'' said Anderson of NET.

World to Bali: Climate Action Now

The most important climate change summit in years has just begun in Bali, Indonesia.This week and next, delegates from every nation will either launch the urgent negotiations for a new binding, global treaty to solve this crisis --or they will blow this historic opportunity and waste years of progress, imperiling us all. With powerful forces lobbying for the status quo, the outcome here is still very much up for grabs.

Here's what we can do to help:

Avaaz is working with groups around the world to organize a massive citizen's march--a virtual march online, and dozens of local marches in communities around the world--this Saturday, Dec. 8th. Our goal? One million participants demanding that their representatives at Bali start working right away towards a new binding climate treaty.

To ensure the delegates hear our voice, Avaaz members will march through the actual conference site in Bali on Saturday, holding high the flags from nations where Avaaz members have signed the climate petition. To join the global virtual march on Bali and help get your flag included in the march, click below to automatically add your name... and then forward this email to all your friends and family so we can hit 1 million by Saturday!


Hundreds of thousands of people have already joined Avaaz's campaign for a new global treaty on climate change, and donated funds to fuel Avaaz's climate campaigning this fall.

Thanks to this support, we're able to work around the clock, on the ground here in Bali, to deliver our urgent message to governments and the media. Only a new global agreement can stop catastrophic climate change, and such treaties can take time to negotiate and implement--time that scientists tell us c ould not be in shorter supply.

We simply cannot allow the forces of denial and delay scuttle these all-important negotiations. We're in a race against time to save our planet, and this week, it's up to us to pull ahead.

Please click below to automatically add your name to our virtual march and we'll personally make sure every voice is heard.


With hope and determination,

Ben, Iain, Ricken, Galit, Pascal and the whole Avaaz team

Avaaz.org is an independent, not-for-profit global campaigning organization that works to ensure that the views and values of the world's people inform global decision-making. (Avaaz means "voice" in many languages.) Avaaz receives no money from governments or corporations, and is staffed by a global team based in London, New York, Paris, Washington DC, Geneva, and Rio de Janeiro.

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Blogger gmbk said...

bali climate change ?
bernama news web page had been
hijjackked this morning..
by the indon. reprublrik news page.
wat happenzed.
wat a shamme.

December 06, 2007 7:43 AM  

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