Saturday, December 15, 2007

Bali Climate Talks - A Nation Who Lost The Plot.

"....So, I am going to speak an inconvenient truth. My own country, the United States, is principally responsible for obstructing progress here in Bali," - Former US Vice-President Al Gore.

Having followed the progress of the Bali Climate Talks and waiting in anticipation for the outcome, I was compelled to ditch today's post on deforestation around the world in favour of a piece on the divisive behaviour of some nations, especially the United States, in the Bali Talks.

Exasperated and disgusted are understatements of how I felt. What's with the moral police and champion of democracy of the world? So quick on the draw with Iraq and Afghanistan and condemnation of human rights abuses around the world, but seemingly myopic, almost blind to the urgent task at hand to come up with a coherent agenda to tackle global warming. The behaviour of the United States at the Bali Talks seems like a nation with a leader who is morally bankrupt.

A recent headline by Associated Press : "US obstructing progress of talks, says Gore," spoke volumes of a nation who have both the ability and resources, but most importantly, a moral responsibility, by being the world's largest emitter of carbon emissions, to take on a leadership role in pressing for a solution to global warming but instead, chooses not to do so.

The moral responsibility and need for the United States to take decisive actions to curb carbon emissions cannot be overstated. Recent statistics released by the Washington-based National Environmental Trust, showed that 42 US states individually emitted more carbon dioxide per year than 50 developing countries combined and 3 states individually emitted more CO2 than 100 developing countries. The US President home state of Texas, with just 24 million people, emits 696 million tonnes of CO2 per year, much more than Britain, whose 60 million people emit 578 million tonnes annually.

It is one thing not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol (which is already bad enough), but to throw spanners in the works at every opportunity, adopting a divisive stance and creating dissension among nations in an attempt to derail the Bali Talks smacks of the behaviour of an over-sized bully out of control. From opposing mandatory carbon emission caps, going off in a different direction with its unilateral decision to have its own climate change talks to the constant proposing of amendments, even at the end of negotiations, the United States arrived at the Bali Talks without any intention of working with the rest of the world in forging a common consensus. Not only was the EU at odds with the US position, but all the members of the G77 developing countries, including China, found US demands that all countries be treated the same way, illogically and unacceptable.

While the United States is not the only country that opposed mandatory carbon dioxide emission caps, the Bali Climate Talks - already saddled with a whole range of contentious issues to deal with, from equity, worries of slowing of economic growth to calculation of carbon emissions caps by per capita basis or by per volume basis between developed and developing nations - certainly can do without the needless posturing of the United States. A statement by the delegate from Papua New Guinea, Kevin Conrad, aptly summed up the general feelings about the behaviour of the United States : "If you are not willing to lead, then get out of the way!" - a position that i had adopted and thought was necessary in order to achieve a modicum of progress in the Bali talks in my previous post - The Kyoto Song And The Bali Dance.

Well, the Bali Climate Talks are now over and the United States should be patting themselves on the back, as the outcome was a compromised piece of watered-down "Bali Road Map", with no mandatory and binding carbon emissions capping, but 2 more years of further negotiations leading to a new accord to replace the Kyoto Protocol by 2009. The original goal of the Bali Climate Talks to cut industrialised nations' carbon emissions by between 25 per cent to 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 was eliminated and relegated to a footnote, replaced by vague goals like "....developed countries should take the lead in driving cuts in emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases," and "....developing nations should consider measurable and reportable national mitigation actions." More talks, more song and dance.

While I am not totally surprised by the failure of the Bali Talks to come up with concrete and decisive actions to deal with global warming, considering the complexity of the talks as the threat of climate change cuts across all aspects of our life and challenges the very structure and system that our current societies are built on, what actually surprised me was the continual faux pax that the guy in the White House, with that funny-sounding plant name, keeps doing in recent years, from the fiasco in Iraq to his handling of the sub-prime mortgage crisis in US.

With the latest "performance" by the United States at the Bali Talks, I doubt he can look at his children and children's children eyes and say he did what was best for the only home we will ever have. My children will certainly say he did not.

*Related articles :
- Climate Talks Near End Amid Row - BBC News
- Al Gore Lays Blame Of Bali Stalemate On US - Reuters
- The Kyoto Song And The Bali Dance

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