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Major emitters: binding cuts crawling off the table in Bali

Bali, Indonesia-

The chances of the world’s major emitters agreeing to mandatory emissions reductions are becoming an increasingly unlikely outcome of the UN talks on climate change here in Bali.

“Nothing has been ruled out yet”, said Yvo de Boer, secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) today in Bali, but he described the possibility of binding emissions cuts for developing nations such as China and India as “crawling towards the edge of the table”.

China has been receiving praise for its proactive role on addressing climate change and its willingness to enter into talks on a post-Kyoto agreement, but De Boer said that India has not been at the forefront of the discussions this week in Bali.

Both India and China have introduced strategies to mitigate climate change this year in a notable departure from historic concerns that to do so would threaten economic growth. Rajenda Pachuari, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said that neither China nor India has had sufficient time to act on climate change since introducing their respective strategies and expects that they will demonstrate more significant efforts in the coming months.

In the meantime, NGOs are hoping that the passage of two climate relevant bills through the US House of Representatives this week will put increasing pressure on the Bush administration to sign up to binding emissions targets.

First up is the Energy Bill, which is the only piece of legislation in over 30 years to require a rise in vehicle fuel efficiency. Designed to improve energy security while reducing emissions for transport, the bill would raise fuel economy by 40% by 2020. Second is the Liebermann-Warner Climate Security Act, which would cut emissions from the power and industrial sectors by 70% by 2050 relative to 2005 levels.

The passing of these bills sends a clear signal to the world that the political centre of gravity in the US has shifted on global warming, but all signs indicate that domestic policy is unlikely to sway the stance of the US on the international front.

Both bills have yet to pass through the Senate and White House, and President Bush has already threatened to veto them. But according to Angela Anderson of the National Environmental Trust in the US, this would be rather ironic given that these are exactly the kind of measures that other major emitters have enacted into their own legislation – the very nations that the US is currently engaging with a serious of talks parallel to the UN process.

Yesterday, Harlan Watson, head of the US delegation, said that neither the passing of these acts to limit US domestic emissions nor the move by Australia to ratify Kyoto would change their stance in Bali. “We’re not changing our position,” he said.

Given that the US is the only nation that appears to be cutting its fossil fuel emissions, while those signed up to Kyoto have failed to meet their targets, some say that binding cuts may not be the way to go after all.

Olive Heffernan

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    Paul said:

    “First up is the Energy Bill, which is the only piece of legislation in over 30 years to require a rise in vehicle fuel efficiency. Designed to improve energy security while reducing emissions for transport, the bill would raise fuel economy by 40% by 2020. Second is the Liebermann-Warner Climate Security Act, which would cut emissions from the power and industrial sectors by 70% by 2050 relative to 2005 levels.”

    I view this type of legislation with great skepticism. Really, it is just a farce. The legislation to my knowledge does not contain any roadmaps as to how such reductions can acheived or what costs are associated with meeting these goals. Now Congress can say it is doing something about global warming, but it doesn’t have to identify any sacrifices that will fall on any particular voter. In my view the legislation is nothing more than posturing that should be taken even less seriously than legislation that requires the federal budget to be balanced within the next 8 years or whatever. At least progress towards the balanced budget can be measured within the lifetime of current politicians.

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