Environment: In Bali, an inconvenient last minute proposal from the US

Global voices has been following the climate change talks in Bali, via the special coverage page. The following posts also appear as part of the aggregated feed to Reuters indicate a developing story coming out of Bali.
Yesterday, Rory of Carbonsmart expressed discouragement with the talks in Bali, saying

In all likelihood, the real punchline on the final day will be that there is no knockout blow to global warming. No magic strategy to solve global ills. No elegant solution, just a messy tangle of promises to reach agreement sometime in the next two years. Indeed, that's all some people are hoping for as an outcome of these two weeks: a commitment to negotiate a global deal under the UNFCCC. Not the deal itself.

Well, later that day, the other shoe dropped. A post from David Steven of Global Deal reported a late night update from Bali, where as he puts it…”the US has thrown a hand grenade into the talks on the Bali roadmap.” David points out the the crux of the US proposal that may be a last minute deal breaker especially for developing countries. He also includes the reasons why this is a controversial move at the end of the conference.

The core of the US proposal is that developed and developing countries should be treated in the same way, with countries taking on targets according to “their level of economic development and significance” or some similar formulation.
Why is this controversial?
Three reasons:
1. It gives the Europeans nothing of what they have been asking for in terms of strong, binding international targets for developed countries.
2. It is sure to raise the hackles of the big developing countries, China and India. They are highly suspicious of US attempts to force them to take on targets when America itself has stayed proudly outside the Kyoto protocol.
3. Finally, and I think most importantly, this is a major shift of direction, introduced not at the 11th hour, but the 13th. This is not a ‘compromise text’ but a completely new proposal.

Rory, adds his thoughts on reading the above report, relating the announcement to Climate Security Act currently in the US, and how it could affect trade with the developing countries.

What I'm wondering is whether it will really make much difference to the Americans, if they do pass the Climate Security Act. The Act is a protectionist measure that essentially hedges Washington's bets. If developing countries don't adopt carbon emissions targets, the Act will give America the means to block trade from those countries.

In addition,

If internationally agreed targets for both developed and developing countries are going to be based on levels of economic development, as the US is suggesting, one way to be truly equitable would be to consider not only current emission levels but also the historic emissions from past economic activity. Just as an assessment of the sustainability of a new building considers the embodied energy in the materials used to construct it, or product labelling might include the carbon emissions from its manufacture (as the US Climate Security Act is proposing), so too entire economies have a level of “embodied carbon” that needs to be considered.

Brian Cascadia has a ‘meta’ view of the Bali conference, looking at the challenges faced by the US environmentalists, and of relevance to the recent developments in Bali. The post is ‘Carbon Justice or Carbonacracy?’

Our narrow, US-centric focus on the obstinate evil Bush distracts us from major conflicts in climate policy at Bali. The reality is that the movement for climate justice in the majority world — for climate justice activists from the Global South (also known, derisively, as the “third world”) — Bush’s is but one side of the climate injustice coin. What we here in the US are missing is that this struggle is an old one: it’s the struggle of the powerful against the disempowered, against the hegemony of the United States and it’s allies, their dominance of everything and anything, including “saving the planet”.

It is quite likely that the fossil of the day award could be awarded to the United States, and as this story develops, I would recommend checking the aggregated feed to see the latest posts. The feed will be active for several days after the conference in order to cover post Bali views from bloggers around the world.


  • Sean

    Funny, the US will actually be taking stronger steps than anyone towards actually curbing CO2 according to the above.

    Kyoto, and I suspect the current negotiations, end up with violators suffering nothing (esp as no one has met the requirements). The US is paving the way — every country will have to set its own standards of what kind of company it keeps. Violators will be met with swift curbs on their exports. Everyone should gang up on the US and write similar laws aimed at them.

    Of course, those laws are just going to end up as protectionist measures. Just as the current negotiations are mainly ending up as wealth redistribution.

  • […] (nothing much happened there because of GW & US’s throwing a wrench in the talks with a last minute proposal that basically scuttled any movement) The talks here in Copenhagen have an air of hope because […]

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