In the disabling humidity of Bali, former US vice president Al Gore last night urged delegates gathered here at the UN conference on climate change to continue efforts towards an international climate change deal, despite attempts by the US delegation to stall progress.
Gore said, to loud applause, that the US was “principally responsible for obstructing progress” at the UN conference, which aims to set out an agenda for how negotiations on a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol should proceed over the next two years.
Delegates have now reached agreement on a number of key issues for the ‘Bali roadmap’, including reducing deforestation, providing financial assistance for adaptation and transferring technology to developing nations.
But there are fears that the science that has informed the process is now being sidelined.
The main bone of contention is how the most recent findings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared this year’s Nobel Peace Prize with Gore, will be acknowledged in the final text agreed to in Bali.
Most delegations believe that the text should refer to the need for developed nations to reduce emissions by 25-40% on 1990 levels by 2020. But the US says that to do so would be ‘prejudge the outcome’ of the process. Japan and Canada agree with the US and Australia agreed with this stance earlier in the week, though it’s position is a little less certain at the moment.
The EU is standing strong behind the need to include specific numbers on future emissions reductions, arguing that it would be pointless to agree on a roadmap without a destination. “It is crucial for us that we must have an idea where we are heading to – it’s not only to science to show us the destination, but the destination must be consistent with the science”, said Portuguese secretary of state for the environment, Humberto Rosa yesterday in Bali.
European commissioner Stavros Dimas warned US under secretary of state Paula Dobiansky in a meeting yesterday morning that unless a substantive agreement was reached in Bali, there would be little point in the EU attending the Major Economies Meeting to be hosted by the US in February in Hawaii. Rosa and Dimas said this was not a threat, but an acknowledgment of the fact that the Major Economies Meeting is designed to feed into the UN process.
In his address last night, Gore advised negotiators to move beyond their anger and frustration at the US and to recognize that a new US administration, which will take over from Bush in little over a year, will likely embrace more climate-friendly policies.
“Do all of the difficult work that needs to be done and save a large, open, blank space in your document and put a footnote by it [that says] this document is incomplete, but we are going to move forward anyway.”
But this morning, executive secretary of the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change, Yvo De Boer, said that option would be unfeasible.
“It would be impossible to advance here without the US, as this is a consensus”, said De Boer. “It doesn’t make an awful lot of sense to craft a climate change regime without one of the major economies and the major emitter”.