Dispatch from Bali: Week 1

Peter GoldmarkThis post is by Peter Goldmark, Program Director, Climate and Air, Environmental Defense.

We are coming to the close of the first week of the Bali climate talks – spring training, you might say, before the major league coaches and star players arrive next week. These closing days of warm-up week were punctuated by several trumpet blasts coming in from overseas.

By far the loudest and most important was the news about the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act (CSA) being approved by the full committee in the U.S. Senate.

When you strip away all the posturing going on here, as well as some of the interminable parliamentary convolutions of questionable sense, there is a logjam in international progress toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Most nations and constituencies represented here at Bali would like to see that logjam broken.

Ironically, the biggest step toward breaking it happened in the halls of the U.S. Senate yesterday, 10,000 miles away. One could feel here the increasing isolation of the Bush team, and the quickened sense of two U.S. voices – a "new voice" and an "old voice". With the news about Lieberman-Warner the "new voice" got much stronger, and the "old voice", though still represented here by an official U.S. delegation, got fainter and even more isolated.

The Bali climate convention is like a circus, with a central ring where the plenary sessions and delegate sessions take place, and a slew of side events that range from really good exchanges to raw organizational self-promotion. Speaking at a side event today, I was joined by Emil Salim, former Indonesian environment minister and an old friend and colleague.

Salim is one of the founding fathers of sustainable development, and has become absolutely passionate on the subject of climate. He is a learned, intense, and extremely articulate leader well known throughout the developing world – and a Muslim from the world’s fourth largest country in population and third-largest in carbon emissions. He understands fully what the "new voice" from the U.S. means, and I am hopeful we will be able to get him to work with us down the road when the U.S. finally enacts a cap and we move with full force into the pursuit of a global carbon regime.

We started the week with the powerful news that Australia was coming on board, and had finally signed the Kyoto accord. The first official act of newly-elected Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. The major holdout with the U.S. had swung over.

We close the week with the less sensationally delivered but very important news that Germany has announced a bold national greenhouse gas reduction program, stepping beyond their present commitments to a level of reduction that should bring them by 2020 to as much as 40 percent below their 1990 levels. The plan, still to be approved by the Bundestag, would make Germany the country with the sharpest and most ambitious emission reduction pathway on the planet. For a convention whose daily currency is words, it was a good example of "doing" rather than "saying".

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One Comment

  1. peter hack
    Posted December 18, 2007 at 6:18 am | Permalink

    For fifteen years the world has watched as the United States has taken a wrecking ball to negotiations on reductions of Co2 in the atmosphere. this goes right back to Bush Senior at Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and then Al Gore at Kyoto in 1997 and George Bush Junior at Bali in 2007.

    I pray with all my heart that the next President of the United States is a great World President,a Rooseveldt an Eisenhower that can truely lead the world and channel all of the innovative ingenuity of a once great nation to tackle all the time that we have lost in the procrastination of lesser men. there is great urgency to this mission.