Bali Bulletin: Dramatic Final Hours

Peter GoldmarkThis post is by Peter Goldmark, Program Director, Climate and Air, Environmental Defense. Also see his previous dispatch from Bali and background on the meetings.

As I prepare to send this account to New York by email, we know how it all ended.

But I had to suffer through 40 hours of nearly sleepless sturm, drang, chaos and emotional suspense to find out. I’ll take you through some of that, too.

The skirmishing got really serious Thursday night. The U.S. churned out another obfuscatory proposal late in the evening and the E.U., to everyone’s surprise, pulled themselves up on their hind legs and said that if the U.S. wouldn’t work to produce a roadmap in Bali, then the E.U. would pull out of the White House-sponsored Major Economies Meeting in January.

This in turn stimulated a spasm of fulmination by White House aide James Connaughton at a press briefing. When challenged on the quality of U.S. leadership by a reporter, he blurted out: “We will lead. The U.S. will lead. But leadership also requires others to fall in line and follow.”

For a volatile collection of delegates, press and NGOs seething with ten days of frustration, this was the match thrown on the kerosene. This remark fueled both widespread anger and some hilarious satire for 24 hours, including a demonstration by young people with signs bearing Connaughton’s infamous quote and another other sign saying, “The world is leading – the U.S. should follow”.

I attended meetings with Mayor Bloomberg of New York and former Vice President Gore during these closing 48 hours. Both addressed plenary sessions of the delegates, and offered a dramatic contrast not only with the official U.S. delegation, but with a lot of the orotund ministers who seem to drift in and out of oratorical trances.

Bloomberg asked us to host a luncheon for him with some NGOs. Interpreting this mandate liberally, we assembled a group that included leaders of independent Hong Kong and Indian NGOs dealing with climate; the Chair of the Energy and Environment Committee of the Indonesian Parliament; the Governor of Mato Grosso, one of Brazil’s largest Amazonian states; and a senior executive of the Steelworkers’ Union, among others. The discussion was riveting – broad-scale, coherent expositions of how the challenge of global warming looks from different parts of the world, and a lot of listening as each tried to understand constructively what was motivating the others.

Gore met with a group of American NGOs Friday morning and offered to be of help in the days and weeks ahead as we work to move the international agenda forward. Fresh from being Nobelized in Oslo and buoyed by the strong response to his speech here, he was in full-voiced enthusiastic mode. He thinks the rest of the world and the Congress are beginning to move, but expects nothing from the Bush administration on climate from here on out.

After we’d spent considerable time on the minutiae of midnight maneuverings, I turned the discussion to more metaBalic subjects in order to stimulate some thinking about how we could avoid totally wasting 2008 on the international negotiation dimension, if what we got at Bali was a tattered laundry list instead of a road map. Some very interesting thoughts surfaced; I will review them with Environmental Defense president Fred Krupp before broadcasting them more widely.

And now, back to the main event:

6:20 pm Friday evening: A deal is reached on RED (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation).

6:40 pm: China and the E.U. reach agreement on Technology Transfer, which puts pressure on everyone else to come along.

8:15 pm: Our Russian connection reports that Russia continues to agree to nothing.

9:10 pm: Rum begins to flow at the Caribbean party down the hall from our post.

11:15 pm: We receive word that talks among the ministers have completely fallen apart.

11:25 pm: Key ministers meet again in private. Small Island States break out the liquor and put up a sign that says: “We Are Drowning Our Sorrows Before We Drown”

3:00 am Saturday: Informal ministerial meetings break to allowing time for consultations with capitals. Announcement that plenary will resume in morning.

3:30 am: Environmental Defense team goes back to hotel to sleep.

7:00 am: Environmental Defense team arrives in Convention Center to secure “base” positions inside and immediately outside Plenary Hall. New draft text distributed by conference secretariat.

9:00 am: Jim Connaughton of White House summons U.S. NGOs to describe the U.S. position. He says the U.S. reached a compromise with E.U. and has support of Japan, Canada and Russia on new draft text.

10:00 am: India indicates it has problems with the draft. G-77 (a group of about 130 developing countries) recesses to discuss their varying degrees of unhappiness.

10 am to 1 pm: Informal meetings among ministers.

1:15 pm: Plenary session reconvenes. President of Indonesia and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon lecture the delegates on importance of coming to agreement. China chastises Secretary-General of UNFCCC for allowing scheduling of two meetings simultaneously to interfere with orderly progress of meeting. Secretary-General, who is exhausted, breaks down and leaves meeting. There follows one of the most extraordinary sessions of an international negotiation any of us have ever seen.

India presents a new text stating how the undertaking of developing countries to participate in the preparation of a global plan of carbon limits will be formulated, which has been arrived at by the G-77 in their caucus. The U.S. rejects it.

All this is happens without any scripting or planning, in open session, on the floor, with NGOs and press filling the sides and back of the room.

One by one countries and blocs rise to support India. South Africa. Papua New Guinea asks the U.S. to lead or get out of the way. China. The EU. The Small Island States. One by one they rise to ask the U.S. to yield to the new language. Frankly, the new language is not sensational, but it represents for the first time the entry of the developing countries together into the global preparation of a plan for carbon limits, and it is their language. Canada is silent. Japan speaks, and no one can figure out what they mean, possibly including themselves. Not one voice among 190 countries is raised in support of the U.S.

3:10 pm: The pressure is like a huge, crushing weight in the room. And finally the U.S. asks for the floor – and yields. The room bursts into wild applause, and the Bali Roadmap is adopted.

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  1. Posted December 17, 2007 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    The U.N. has posted Webcasts of much of the conference. For the final public session, click “Part 3, Original“.

  2. mauiskye
    Posted December 17, 2007 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Aloha to All. . . I have only been involved on the peripheral view of this issue, but must say that I am so deeply affected that I am crying with joy. We can and will as an ‘intention to heal this beautiful planet’, succeed. Mahalo Nui Loa to all who gave their hearts, souls and faith to bringing this to resolution. In Light )'( Skye

  3. cepdppk
    Posted December 17, 2007 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    While I sincerely hope mauiskye is correct I am somewhat skeptical. Seven years have passed with no action on climate change, except to deny it and work hard to deceive the rest of the nation and world concerning it, and one more year will surely pass with no action. We are running out of time. While individual actions are great we need to have large scale action from the worlds governments to truly address climate change. We are playing catch up and for the sake of our children and grandchildren we need to get serious about it.

  4. Posted December 17, 2007 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    I first experienced the shame of America’s climate change stance about a decade ago when meeting in London with the WRI/WBCSD GHG Protocol development group. Back home we had just elected the current administration and they had just reneged on their promise to deal with CO2 emissions. I wish I could have been at Bali for the historic moment when the world stopped bowing to our dollars and our military power and said: move aside! For me it is simple: we have more money than others and we cry about whether we can afford climate action; we have put more up into the air – and it is still there for decades to come – and yet we say the newcomers to energy affluence must start now too; we pollute at about 10X the per person rate of many others; we owe it to all future peoples. Take that U.S. congress! Take that rabid obstructionists in the administration! Take that to heart Jeffrey (me); we can learn to follow and still be proud. And if we earn leadership again someday, let it be for our vision, for our heart for humanity, not for our warships and money! Jeffrey Frost from the trenches.

  5. Bad Science
    Posted December 17, 2007 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    My comment about the Bali Climate Negotiations.

    I have studied much about the effect of excessive microwave use in our atmosphere and have found by watching said effect that satellites in the magnetic belt above our atmosphere are a real boon to microwave transmission, but that is the number one cause of global warming. I know it is a billion + industry but just like in small isolated microwaves in the kitchen it heats up earths atmosphere and causes wave pattern changes that heat up the atmosphere etcetera and vastly contributes to our atmosphere sweating and drying and changing weather patterns, throwing off migrating animals and much more all for the convenience of satellite transmission. Yes satellite transmission is a lovely unequaled source of energy. But this is the main source of aerosol pollution because the sweating and distribution of partials in our atmosphere. Must I say more. Big companies would like to blame the environmental condition just simply on oil consumption and the like but microwave intensifies the effect a billion fold just like their profits. So if global warming is going to stop, microwave technology will have to stop first, by simply accepting that vast convenience of microwave technology is simply wrong for our environment from transmission from satellites in the Borland Magnetic belt above our atmosphere. You can’t really expect that such an impact wouldn’t be caused by such a productive unequaled source of energy now could you.

    So all the folks that want to can get together and sweat tears over their economic interests, but too bad because all of the rest of us has to be able to keep living for them to profit.

    Barbara Alvis

  6. Bill Mc
    Posted December 25, 2007 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    Just out of curiosity, did anyone mention a way of negating the mass of the rest of the orbiting bits of the solar system so we can cease these pesky ice-age/abrupt glacial termination 100k year long thingies (at least for the past 16 replays)? Hopefully no one mentioned the thing WHICH HAS NOTHING AT ALL TO DO WITH ANY KNOWN PROBLEM ON EARTH, overpopulation and exponential growth in resource consumption, did they?