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Rocky start to Bali relationship

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Bali, Indonesia-

The road to building a Bali roadmap was looking increasingly rocky today, as the vastly differing expectations of what will emerge from the two weeks meeting of the 13th conference of parties (COP) to the UNFCCC became increasingly apparent.

One of the biggest bones of contention, of course, is whether the roadmap will include an agreement on the need for binding emissions targets from 2012, which signals the end of the second period of commitment of the Kyoto Protocol.

At the opening plenary talk on Monday, Yvo de Boer, UNFCCC Executive Secretary said that “A marriage contract is not something to discuss on a first date”, eluding to the fact that the willingness of nations to co-operate must first be established here before they get down to the nitty gritty of asking parties to act on their promises.

But many feel this is a COP-out. Today, Matthias Duwe of Climate Action Network, a worldwide association of some 400 NGOs, retorted to De Boer’s comment, saying “These parties have been dating for over 15 years now, so we’re not exactly on a first date here”.

Duwe is one of many who believe that a process without an end date and without specific substance will be insufficient for the enormity of the task at hand.

But others feel that pushing for targets now will rock the boat…and possibly capsize it.

Meena Raman of Friends of the Earth International basically agrees with De Boer. She believes that there needs to be more evidence of good will from industrialised nations before we can reach that point. “To put the targets on the table right now would be going in the wrong direction”, said Raman.

There’s also the argument that you need to have the right tools for the job, lest we (again!) agree to targets we fail to meet.

De Boer compared setting targets first to being asked to swim across the Atlantic without knowing whether you’d have a team, be allowed breaks, use rescue equipment etc. Basically, you’d hardly sign up for the task without knowing the details beforehand.

This approach, however, would be a flip on the order in which the Kyoto Protocol was agreed, which set targets first and then looked at how to achieve them. And that’s bound to ruffle feathers.

Among all the political wrangling and finger pointing, there has been some light hearted relief takes on the Bali talks, such as the giant thermometer erected by Greenpeace outside the conference venue and the Fossil of the Day Awards announced each evening by the Climate Action Network. The prize is in recognition of the efforts of countries that block progress at the conference.

Yet again, Saudi Arabia won first prize today for complaining that the protocol has an unfair focus on CO2 (and then called for prioritisation of CCS, which is concentrated on CO2). And secondly, for saying that article A “should not attach an economic element to the noble cause of fighting climate change”—when for years, they have been trying to undermine the fight against climate change specifically by campaigning by alleging adverse economic effects!

Olive Heffernan

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