Saturday, December 15, 2007

US U-Turn at Bali: The Dramatic Chronology

Midnight to 1:30am EST was a dramatic period in Bali! There was a lot of 'backing down' going on...all of it productive. Most dramatic event was the US U-Turn, but the EU also agreed to further technology transfer funding for India and China and neither Japan nor Australia got in the way of the final agreement. In the end the US delegation was entirely isolated both internationally and domestically: then came the U-turn. And perhaps some hope.

12:00 a.m. EST - The two-week talks, meant to end on Friday, are deadlocked long into overtime. Developing nations led by India and China are demanding that rich countries do more to lead the way in fighting climate change. The demands arose overnight, partly after the European Union bowed to U.S. pressure and toned down calls for the final text to lay out clear 2020 guidelines for rich nations to axe greenhouse gas emissions.

12:20 a.m. EST - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, making an unscheduled return after leaving Bali on Friday for East Timor, enters the conference hall with Indonesian President Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

"I am disappointed at the lack of progress," Ban said. "Everybody should be able to make compromises."

"The worst thing we can do is for this project to crumble because we can't find the right wording," Yudhoyono said. "The world is watching anxiously and I beg you not to let them down."

Delegates strongly applaud both speeches.

12:44 a.m. EST- The European Union, which had opposed the developing nations' demands, immediately backs down and accepts the developing countries' text that gives stronger promises to share green technologies. Delegates applaud.

12:55 a.m. EST - Paula Dobriansky, under secretary of state for democracy and global affairs leading the U.S. delegation, reaffirms U.S. opposition, bringing boos.

A bit of emotion getting into the talks. Nice. I wonder how much damage this kind of atmosphere does to us interests around the globe? Diplomacy isn't a science but obstructing somethings as important as progress on climate change has got to be weaking US influence.

12:56 a.m. EST - Speakers from countries including Brazil and South Africa then make pleas on behalf of the developing countries. And neither Australia nor Japan side with Dobriansky. Papua New Guinea delegate Kevin Conrad wins wild applause by addressing Dobriansky and saying:
"We ask for your leadership, we seek your leadership ... if you can't give us what we want, please get out of the way."

(Would this have been the case if Howard was still in power? I think not. Australia has had a mixed performance at Bali but at least here it was not actively destructive...and thats and improvement. And
three cheers for Papua New Guinea!)

1:19 a.m. EST - Dobriansky backs down, saying "We will go forward and join consensus," triggering applause.

1:31 a.m. EST - Indonesian Environment Minister Rachmat Witoelar announces consensus on a deal to launch two years of talks on a new global treaty to succeed the Kyoto Protocol.


-- Dobriansky said she changed her mind because the developing country speakers convinced her that they were serious about acting to fight climate change. She said she did not consult Washington before changing her mind.

Other delegates hailed the U.S. reversal:

"The mood in the room exploded. The secretary-general and the president -- that just electrified the room," said Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat.

The text that the us where resisting included the need for developed nations to take on a legally binding cap on emissions. Although the target was not specified this is still a major breakthrough in what the US is prepared to accept: the very notion of a cap has been fiercly resisted. Bill Hare sums up the unusaul nature of events.
Bill Hare of environmental group Greenpeace said he believed it was the first time since 1996 that Washington had won applause at a U.N. climate meeting.

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