Paulus Jansen: Weblog Bali

17 December 2007

Paulus Jansen: Weblog Bali

From Monday 10th to Saturday 15th December, SP Member of Parliament Paulus Jansen visited the Climate Conference on the Indonesian island of Bali. During this, the 13th Climate Conference a start was made on reaching agreement on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. Dutch state news broadcast corporation NOS asked Jansen to write a daily report of his experiences at the Conference. This is an extract from one or two of his blogs, including the the last, written after his flight home, in which he draws his conclusions as to the success or otherwise of the event.

Paulus JansenIt's all over. Yesterday I came back to the Netherlands, and a day after the Conference took its final decision and issued its closing declaration, my feelings about the result remain mixed. Good that a step forward was taken, but it was, it has to be said, hardly a giant stride.

The problem can be seen above all when you look at the original proposal and note what was scrapped. When I arrived in Bali, this was how the preamble to the proposed agreement looked:

“… Responding to the fact that the warming of the climate system is unequivocal, that delay in emission reduction significantly constrains opportunities to achieve lower stabilisation levels and increases the risk of more severe climate change impacts, and that the lowest category of stabilisation levels assessed by the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report requires global emissions of greenhouse gasses to peak in the next 10 to 15 years and be reduced to very low levels, well below half of levels in 2000 by 2050,

Recognizing that much deeper emission cuts by developed countries will be required and that parties to the Kyoto protocol are considering the indicative range of emission reductions of Annex I Parties as a group of 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020…”

In the definitive text this passage reads as follows:

“Responding to the findings of the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and that delay in reducing emissions significantly constrains opportunities to achieve lower stabilization levels and increases the risk of more severe climate change impacts,

Recognizing that deep cuts in global emissions will be required to achieve the ultimate objective of the Convention and emphasizing the urgency to address climate change as indicated in the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change …”

The latter sounds rather less concrete than the proposal of five days earlier. There were, nevertheless, references to the 4th Report of the IPCC (the International Panel on Climate Change), where the same figures as are given in the originally-proposed declaration can be found. The future will discover whether the intentions expressed in this definitive declaration are in reality shared by all of the 190 countries which signed it. This we will know for sure after the next Climate Conference, scheduled for Copenhagen in 2009.

In order to halt climate change, global energy housekeeping must move from fossil fuels to sustainable energy sources. As things stand fossil-fuel based energy is, however, the principal motor of economic growth and of prosperity. Bali was intended to look both at this problem and at how the cake of the world's emission reductions can be best divided.

In the past Europe and the wealthy English-speaking countries called the shots at this kind of meeting, but those days are gone. China and India have long been the two biggest countries in terms of population, but now the Chinese have become an economic great power and the Indians are hard on their heels. Indonesia and Brazil have also taken spectacular strides up the economic league table.

The economic tigers and their fellow developing countries want the wealthy states to make the biggest contribution to tackling the problem of climate change, which, they argue, was caused by those states in the first place. They are concerned to leave themselves room for the growth of their new-found prosperity. On the other hand each country might be expected, depending on the size of its economy and of its energy consumption, to tailor its efforts to make that consumption sustainable.

The poorest countries present in Bali want to see the financing of a world-wide fund to pay for such adaptation and combat the consequences of climate change: drought and desertification, extreme weather events, hurricanes, and the flooding of heavily-populated river deltas. Just before I went to Bali I attended a student debate organised by the Evert Vermeer foundation, a group dedicated to international solidarity. The suggestion was made that such a fund could be financed from a tax on aircraft fuel, currently notoriously free from any taxation whatsoever, which seems to me a sound means to finance such an initiative.

The complete text of the Bali declaration, known as “Decision -/CP”, can be read here

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