In-depth: Gathering Storm - the humanitarian impact of climate change
GLOBAL: Out of the woods, for now
Delegates applaud the decision to adopt the Bali Roadmap
Bali, 19 December 2007 (IRIN) - "They can see the trees, but not the forest," groaned a frustrated Slovenian environmental bureaucrat as a debate ran into the small hours of the morning in Bali over whether a "facility" or a "programme" would be appropriate for the developing world to acquire technology to adapt to, and reduce, global warming.
"At the end of the day they are just words aren't they? It is all so disconnected from the world outside that we are trying to save here," she told IRIN.
But words matter in developing countries
with little money, capacity or technology to cope with the increasingly frequent and intense weather events that are not only destroying large numbers of human lives but changing the surviving population's lives, sometimes for good.
Words also matter in the developed world, under increasing pressure to do more to cut their greenhouse gas emissions as required by the Kyoto Protocol, a commitment they made in 1997, which also requires them to help poor countries cut their emissions.
The Protocol is essentially a deal between the developed and the developing world. "Each country has to look after their national interest - one must always bear that in mind," said José Romero, of the Swiss Federal Environment Office.
So, every night was a long one in the Indonesian island as countries debated a framework for the Bali Roadmap
to reduce greenhouse gas emissions after 2012, when the first commitment phase of the Protocol ends.
The Bali Roadmap sets out an agenda for two years of talks with a deadline in 2009 for a new agreement to cut emissions and prevent dangerous climate change. Pilot projects measuring emissions reduction from forestry projects were also agreed, as a first step towards future forest management and reclamation projects. Almost derailed
A wrangle over words almost derailed the talks. As the gavel was about to go down on the new agreement, the developing world, led by G77/China, found that the rich countries' part of the bargain to provide guaranteed assistance had been watered down to a mere assurance.
"We have been so accommodating and flexible - the developed world has not even included the required post-2012 emission targets in their part of the bargain," said Kapil Sibal, India's Minister for Science and Technology.
"We [the European Union (EU)] also ended up accommodating - in our case it was the Americans, the Japanese and the Canadians [all with bad track records of reducing emissions]," said a European official.
The main divide was between the US and the majority of developing countries, which stood against the world's biggest economy for consensus on how to move forward in negotiating a new climate change framework.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has suggested cuts of between 25 and 40 percent by 2020 to avoid a 2-degree Celsius increase in global temperature - the kind of increase that is expected to destroy 30 to 40 percent of all known species, with bigger, fiercer and more frequent heat waves and droughts, and more intense weather events like floods and cyclones.
Hilary Benn, Britain's secretary for environment, said the EU had supported the developing countries' position all along, but many member states of the EU were upset that apart from references to the need for "deep cuts", no new emission reduction targets were laid down in the Bali Roadmap. The spoiler joins the process
Perhaps the most significant outcome of Bali was that the US, which initially refused to endorse the G77/China position, agreed to the Bali Roadmap and is now part of the global process to tackle climate change.
The US, the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, has still not ratified the Kyoto Protocol because it wants China and India, the world's fastest growing economies, to adhere to emission reduction targets as well. It continued to press that line in Bali.
Over the next decade China is set to become the world's largest source of carbon dioxide emissions; India is one of the biggest emitters, while South Africa has the biggest carbon footprint in Africa.
"We - South Africa, Brazil, China and India - assured them [the US] that we are committed to combat climate change; to taking measurable, reportable and verifiable mitigation action. Our commitment took us beyond what was required from us [the developing countries] by the Kyoto Protocol," said Marthinus van Schalkwyk, South Africa's minister of environmental affairs.
An African minister remarked, "It [the US] was so isolated, it had no choice but to join the others." Paula Dobriansky, the US Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, who led the delegation, described the process as a "new chapter in climate diplomacy."
"It was not a retreat," Alexander Karsner, the US Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy later remarked to IRIN. "It was just what has being going on here for the past two weeks - making adjustments." Something for everyone
On the whole, the developed world managed to strike a good deal for itself. "The Bali Roadmap does not ensure that all developed countries will negotiate on binding reduction targets, and leaves open the possibility for voluntary actions by developed countries as well," said Antonio Hill, of the UK-based development agency, Oxfam.
Rich countries have been given the choice of setting their own targets according to their "national circumstances". Ironically, the developing world - where wealth and technology can be extremely varied - was not offered the same choice. "What will China and Burkina Faso have in common?" a Bangladesh environment official wondered. However, this issue will be re-examined in negotiations over the next two years.
Britain's Benn argued that most EU member states were taking emission cuts seriously. "We [the UK] are committed to reducing our emissions by 26 to 32 percent."
The deal that the developing world managed to strike for themselves - to get financing, technology transfer and adaptation - could at best be described as a "first step", Oxfam's Hill said. "There were no clear mandates about how money will flow to help the developing countries cope, but at least there is recognition."
According to a delegate from the developing world, "At least it is in the roadmap, which is a legally binding document, so we can negotiate towards it." Deforestation
Besides the Americans coming on board, the other most significant outcome
of the Bali process was the recognition of the need to deal with deforestation
to stem global warming.
After years of lobbying, environmental non-governmental organisations and countries with extensive green cover welcomed possible financial support to halt deforestation and forest degradation that the Bali Roadmap has promised.
Deforestation is responsible for 1.6 billion tonnes of carbon emissions every year, amounting to one-fifth of the global total, and to more than the combined total contributed by the world's energy-intensive transport sectors, according to the Indonesia-based Centre for International Forestry Research.
But the amount of money and how it will be raised are still to be determined. South Africa's van Schalkywk commented, "If you thought this battle was hard, it is going to get harder as we negotiate for the next two years."
The countries now have two years until their next meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, to draw up the next commitment phase of the Protocol.