Bali climate conference

As the Bali conference winds up, I’m wondering – will anything *really* be achieved, or was it just talk about talk about talk? I guess it was a bit of both; but perhaps more of the latter.

On the positive side of things, Australia made some progress in finally taking necessary steps to ratify the Kyoto Protocol; putting additional pressure on the USA which now remains the only developed country not to do so. But Bali was really about beyond Kyoto. It was great to see many countries banding together, recognizing the seriousness of the situation and really committed to the hard road ahead.

Unfortunately, Australia has stopped short of backing a very important inclusion of a target for developed countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions by between 25 and 40 per cent by 2020; which was widely accepted by other countries.

This stance has only helped to bolster a handful of other recalcitrant nations. Our excuse was basically that our new government hasn’t had the time to crunch the numbers yet after the previous government’s inaction of 11 years on the issue of climate change.

There’s certainly some validity in that excuse, but if you’re diagnosed with cancer and have to make a choice about chemotherapy, most people don’t put it off for a year. Is that an overreaction to the serious nature of climate change on my part? Perhaps, but Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned delegates during the conference: “We are at a crossroad, one path leads to a comprehensive climate change agreement, the other to oblivion. The choice is clear.”

Sure, we’ve indicated agreement to even larger cuts by 2050, but it’s a long way off, isn’t it. Far off enough to sorta sweep things under the rug for a few years or perhaps not be as diligent as we should. Maybe we don’t have a few years – think critical mass in terms of climate change. If we hit a tipping point, there’s no turning back – maybe we’re already there.

The other major disappointment is the USA’s continued stance against the 2020 targets, along with Canada and Japan . The attitude by the current USA administration is dividing the global community to the point that the EU has threatened boycotting U.S.-led climate talks scheduled for next month. In a world that needs to pull together especially now, this is very disappointing.

The odd thing about all this is the  25 and 40 per cent by 2020 statement in the draft wasn’t going to be binding.. it’s just draft. However, having included it would have put on some pressure.

All this talk about cuts we *need* to make *now* affecting the economy adversely reminds me of the fear of the computer revolution in the 80’s and 90’s. People said the same thing then. The difference this time is there’s a lot more at stake, even more reason that we should be doing much more and more quickly.

As I’m writing this, negotiations are expected to continue into the night as delegates struggle to reach consensus on a final declaration for the Bali climate conference. I just hope sanity prevails and those interim targets do somehow make it in – I’ve just read that multiple drafts are still being considered by negotiators from the 189 countries participating.