The first act – Bali

Given the prominent part that climate change has played in the election, it is fortuitous indeed that the first major set piece of the new government will be the upcoming climate change summit in Bali.

It’s wrong to say that the ratification of Kyoto will leave the United States completely friendless in its continued opposition. while Canada signed some time ago, current conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper was indulging in greenhouse denialism almost as recently as Howard, and thinks the Kyoto protocol was a “mistake” in its differential treatment of developing nations.

But from Rudd’s perspective, it’ll be a great and rare opportunity to have an impact on the international stage; it will be noted around the world that the second-last holdout amongst the developed nations has joined the Kyoto club, leaving only the United States out of it.

As for the summit itself (discussed in some detail by Brian a little while ago), it will likely be mainly about process for the negotiation for the post-Kyoto treaty, rather than too much negotiation in itself. But then, determining the process can do a lot to determine the outcome, and so there will be plenty of tea leaves to be read. The headline issue is what the nature of the targets imposed on the developing countries will be – the USA’s position (and, possibly, Australia’s, given Rudd’s micromanagement during the campaign) is that the big rapidly developing countries will need to face binding targets. Those countries have been resisting this strongly. Given that emissions have to start falling, in absolute terms, fairly soon, it’s hard to see how that can happen without the developing countries at least capping their emissions, but we’ll see what happens.

It’ll be nice to have a PM who’s not going to a climate change meeting dragging along a retinue from the coal industry with the purpose of sabotaging the meeting.

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Posted in environment, politics
4 comments on “The first act – Bali
  1. harry says:

    Australia’s signature on Kyoto will be belated recognition that this treaty always was the best way forward for the planet. This global recognition will further cement Howard’s place in ignominy – a Bush toady who sucked up to Big Business, even at the expense of mankind.

    But as you say, Bali will really be about post-Kyoto, and that’s where Rudd’s mettle will really be tested. With a global financial tsunami still brewing, forcing India and China to cut emissions could lead directly to a major slump in our precious resources export market.

    Does Rudd have the cojones to take a true leadership role on climate change? This will be a revelatory moment for all of us still wondering about the direction his government will take.

    And will he take Peter Garrett to Bali with him? It would certainly send a powerful signal to the world media: Oils tracks would be played on TV news bulletins around the globe!

  2. Enemy Combatant says:

    “But from Rudd’s perspective, it’ll be a great and rare opportunity to have an impact on the international stage; it will be noted around the world that the second-last holdout amongst the developed nations has joined the Kyoto club, leaving only the United States out of it.”

    “It’ll be nice to have a PM who’s not going to a climate change meeting dragging along a retinue from the coal industry with the purpose of sabotaging the meeting.”

    Agree on both points, Robert.

    For many of the regulars at my barber shop, it will be a celebration of national pride to have a PM who will grace a major international forum without, as larrikin Bill Leake depicted, protruding head, shoulders and yapping from Bush The Imbecile’s backside.

  3. bahnischba says:

    “Given that emissions have to start falling, in absolute terms, fairly soon, it’s hard to see how that can happen without the developing countries at least capping their emissions, but we’ll see what happens.”

    In a recent study developing countries were contributing, from memory, 73% of the increase in emissions. Emissions overall are tracking in the last two years of 2000-2006 period above the upper bound of the most pessimistic IPCC scenario.

    India in particular is highly averse to limits on its emissions, and the approach from India and China is the relieving poverty takes priority over emissions control. Also they use the historical argument that the developing countries put the stuff up there, so we caused the problem and should fix it.

    It’s not possible to be definitive about Rudd’s motivations for going except that climate change must be huge in his priorities. The environment minister, whoever he or she is would certainly go also. Possibly it will be someone other than Garrett. But Rudd must realise, I think, that climate change is more serious than the press, the pollies and perhaps the people have realised.

    Don Henry said the other day that the UNFCCC were foreshadowing 2050 cuts of 80-95% for developed countries.

    On limitations (rather than cuts) for developing countries, it’s worth quoting at length Guy Pearse’s article in the Bulletin:

    “Howard claims that Labor has come around to his position on climate change but this is nothing more than wishful thinking.

    The real problem has been lazy reporters assuming that terms like ‘bringing developing countries on board’ or making sure they have ‘emission constraints’, ‘parallel obligations’, ‘appropriate commitments’ all mean the exactly same thing as the ‘national emission reduction targets’ to which developed countries were bound in Kyoto and are likely to be bound in future.

    The terms are not interchangeable and both sides know it.

    Of course it‘s in the interests of the planet for developing countries to eventually accept meaningful emission constraints as soon as possible. However, it’s also in the interests of the 800 million or so people living without electricity in India and China that developing countries industrialise.

    Satisfying both objectives is a matter for negotiation at Bali this December and in Copenhagen in 2008 but no-one expects that developing countries will accept the same national emission reduction targets as developed countries in the years immediately following 2012.

    Kyoto was based on an understanding that developed countries should take the lead since they caused some 80% of the excess emissions responsible for the environmental crisis the world faces. I used to write this principle of developed country leadership into speeches for the first Howard government environment minister, Robert Hill.

    Regrettably, George W Bush decided to abandon that principle – he was not willing to lead, not even for the Kyoto first commitment period 2008-12. More than any other factor, this decision delayed the creation of a pathway for developing country engagement. “

    In Peter Garrett’s ‘clarifying statement’ what Labor committed to insisting on was “appropriate developing country commitments”. Everyone wants that, including the developing countries.

    BTW it’s Copenhagen, December 2009, not 2008. Bali is the end of the beginning of the serious negotiations. It’s a serious question as to whether meaningful action can wait that long.

  4. bahnischba says:

    Here’s a reference to Canada PM’s form at the recent Commonwealth meeting.

    “Opposition MPs are calling Prime Minister Stephen Harper a saboteur, an environmental criminal and an international pariah for his refusal to sign on to a hardline climate-change deal at the Commonwealth meeting in Africa.”

    “Harper helped broker a compromise that pledged members to work toward undefined, so-called “aspirational” goals on greenhouse gas emissions.”

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