Monday, December 17, 2007

Bali: What was achieved?

On Wednesday we published an article, “What to Expect at Bali: Nothing, or Worse”. The good news is we weren’t wholly wrong in our predictions (you can still trust us). The better news is we were wrong in some of our predictions.

What wasn’t achieved
As we predicted, nothing on the scale of the Kyoto Protocol was produced. The European Union wanted a mandated 25%-40% carbon cut in developed nations, but the United States blocked any chance of that.

One ‘achievement’ that we predicted did not come into realization: a weak carbon mandate. We had predicted the possibility that the U.S could force the world into a weak, non-binding climate treaty, setting back the possibility of a real treaty probably more than a decade. Luckily, this type of treaty did not come into fruition. The U.S. had not even one country standing beside it by the end of the talks.

What was achieved
There still is a possibility for carbon caps. The deal sets a framework to create a subsidiary committee at the U.N. Views of the committee will be sought by April next year, and the deal commands a full carbon cap deal on the scale of the Kyoto Protocol be completed by the end of the 2009 U.N. Copenhagen summit.

This is the story the media is reporting, but they are missing the most important news to come out of this conference: the deforestation pact.

20% of anthropogenic emissions are from deforestation – it’s arguable the worst humanity has done for the planet. So when deforestation was barely mentioned in the Kyoto Protocol, many were surprised.

Delegates corrected that mistake this time around. A $300 million grant program was assigned to be created at the World Bank, to assist developing countries with planting new trees. The real achievement was REDD: reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries, a pay-and-preserve program.

"It is one of the substantial achievements of this conference,” said EU Environmental Commissioner Stavros Dimas.

It’s not one of the substantial achievements; it is the most substantial achievement of the conference.

You can probably see why it is a good thing: we were wrong in saying nothing would be accomplished.

To infinity, and beyond?
The reason I’m quoting Buzz Lightyear (If you don’t understand the above quote, go out to Blockbuster right now and get Toy Story. Or order it on Netflix. I don’t care. Just do it. Now) is to ask, “Where do we go from here?”

Buzz Lightyear knows exactly where he is going, but do we?

The framework set out at Bali mandates a deal be completed by early 2009. For most of the short timeframe the Bali roadmap provides for a deal to be agreed upon, George W. Bush will be president of the U.S. He was willing to make concessions at this summit because essentially no countries stood at the United States sides. It showed that the U.S. is in fact vulnerable to international pressure

That means the real question is: will the pressure be maintained?