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“It’d Better Be Good …”

  • December 18th, 2007
  • Posted by 7thmin

climate-change-conf-un.jpgEU delegates at Bali joined the applause when Australia joined the Kyoto agreement on climate change … but they want a tighter commitment to numbers on cutting back CO2.

BREAK-THROUGH TIME

European leaders declared there had been a “break-through” with the signing of a “road map” agreement on handling climate change, especially carbon emissions, at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali (15.12.07).

It was accompanied by agreements also on handling deforestation, land use and technology transfer.

WHAT THE EU GOT OUT OF IT

The 27 European Union countries have adopted a unilateral target of 20% reduction in their own carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere by 2020; and they have pledged that if other industrial powers will join them, they will go immediately to 30%. (See EUAustralia; European Union at 50, 27.3.07; Summit Takes a Lead on Climate Change, 12.3.07).

During proceedings, EU delegates complained that Australia had not immediately gone to a similar commitment; not delivering “substance” to match “high expectations”; and observers from the European Parliament called for “no watering down” on stiff targets.

In a statement welcoming the “Bali action plan”, eventually agreed to by the 176 countries that are signatories to the Kyoto accord, the European Commission noted with satisfaction:

• It had secured agreement by all of the countries to work towards signing a firm agreement by this time in 2009;
• that would enable long-term cooperation “up to and including 2012”, when the Kyoto treaty is up for renewal;they had recognised that “deep cuts in global emissions would be required …”;• the United States, after resisting an open commitment, (until developing countries, notably China and India, abandoned claims to exempt status on reductions), joined in;
• developing countries also had made a commitment to take action on reductions;
• and there was (admittedly qualified) wording in the statement, giving figures — a goal of “25-40% by 2020” for developed economies.

On the last point, the actual statement is a reference to research showing developed countries would need to make such reductions, from the base of 1990 levels of CO2, to limit global warming to 2-degrees above pre-industrial levels of temperature.

“We have worked hard to achieve this result,” said the EC President, Jose Manuel Barroso.

“It is a very important step forward.

“Europe is determined to do all it can to move forward … I appeal to all out partners to take these commitments seriously and to act swiftly.”

AUSTRALIAN AGREEMENT

The newly-elected Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, agreed that an important “first step” had been taken.

He had led a Ministerial delegation to Bali, where he announced Australia’s immediate signing, then ratification of the Kyoto agreement; ending the country’s previous hold-out stance against the move, under the previous government, closely in tandem with the United States.

The Labor Prime Minister in fact urged the Americans to change position, telling the conference all developed countries needed to contribute fully to the climate change initiative.

Delegates had applauded the announcement on Kyoto, but were told any commitments to short-term figures on reducing levels of CO2 would have to wait for the completion of a comprehensive study now under way.

The economist, Prof. Ross Garnaut from the Australian National University, has been commissioned to investigate the likely economic impacts of tight restrictions on emissions, with a report expected in mid-2008.

STATEMENT AT BALI

The speech by Kevin Rudd at the Bali conference (12.12.07) pledged close engagement in follow-up actions, and evoked a previous history of multi-lateral engagements by Australia under Labor governments.

Extracts:

“A little over a week ago I had the honour of being elected as Australia’s 26th Prime Minister. In my first act as Prime Minister, I signed the formal instrument for Australia to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. And just a few moments ago I handed, personally, that instrument of ratification to the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

“I did so, and my Government has done so, because we believe that climate change represents one of the greatest moral, economic and environmental challenges of our age.

“Australia now stands ready to assume its responsibility in responding to this challenge – both at home and in the complex negotiations which lie ahead across the community of nations. For Australians, climate change is no longer a distant threat. It is no longer a scientific theory. It is an emerging reality.

“In fact, what we see today is a portent of things to come:

• In Australia, our inland rivers are dying.
• Bushfires are becoming more ferocious, and more frequent.
• Our unique natural wonders – the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu, our rainforests – are now at risk …

“And regrettably it is now an increasingly familiar story across the globe, as reflected in the critical conclusions of the Fourth IPCC [International Panel on Climate Change] Report released last month …

“Australia has a long tradition of multi-lateral engagement:

• Australia was a founding state of the United Nations at San Francisco in 1945.
• The Cambodian Peace Settlement.
• The Chemical Weapons Convention.
• The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
• Australia was, in fact, among the first to sign the Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992.

“In the past we have been willing to put our shoulder to the wheel. And what I say to this conference today is that under the Government I lead, we are doing so again.

COMMITMENTS

“For too long sceptics have warned of the costs of taking action on climate change. But the costs of action are far less than the costs of inaction … Action to tackle climate change will not be easy. It will require tough choices. And some of these will come at a political price. But unless we act, the long-term costs will threaten the security and the stability of us all.

“The truth is that we – the community of nations – are in this together. We have embraced a comprehensive plan of action …

“The Government has committed to reducing Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent on 2000 levels by 2050.

“Last year – when my party was not in government – we commissioned a major study to help us to set shorter term targets along the way. This study, the Garnaut Review, will report in mid 2008. Together with modelling under way in the Australian Treasury, and also critically, informed by the science, this Review will drive our decisions on short and medium term targets. These will be real targets. These will be robust targets…

“Australia will implement a comprehensive emissions trading scheme by 2010 to deliver these targets.

“We will increase the proportion of renewable energy to 20 per cent of our national electricity supply by 2020.

“We will invest in research and development to deliver transforming technologies.

DEVELOPED AND DEVELOPING COUNTRIES

“But whatever one country does alone, it will not be enough. This conference must agree to work together on a shared global emissions goal. A goal that, on the best advice available, recognises the core reality that we must avoid dangerous climate change…

“We expect all developed countries to embrace a further set of binding emissions targets – and we need this meeting at Bali to map out the process and timeline in which this will happen.

“And we need developing countries to play their part – with specific commitments to action…

“The approach we take must be comprehensive and must incorporate critical challenges, including deforestation …

“We must all respect the aspiration of developing nations to secure their economic development and deliver rising living standards for their people. But failure to act on climate change will make the development goal even harder to achieve.

“Australia recognises the particular responsibility of the developed countries to assist developing nations in this process of transition. In the form of technology transfer. In the form of financial incentives. And in the form of support for adaptation…

NO PLAN B

“The world expects us to deliver binding targets. The world expects us to deliver specific commitments. It expects us all to pull together and for us all to do our fair share.

“The Government I lead is only 10 days old. It is a Government that is realistic about the difficult challenges ahead, particularly in the two years leading up to the Copenhagen conference. ..

“The community of nations must reach agreement.

“There is no Plan B.”

Reference:

Kevin Rudd, Prime Minister Australia, “High Level Segment of the 13th Conference … UN Framework Convention on Climate Change”, Speech (full text), Bali, 12.12.07. www.pm.gov.au, (17.12.07).

UN Climate Change Conference 2007 (home); Welcome to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali. http://unfcc.int/meetings/cop_13/items/4049.php, (17.12.07).

UN Climate Change Conference 2007; Decision-/CP.13: Bali Action Plan, 15.12.07. http://unfcc.int/files/meetings/cop_13/application/pdf/cp_bali_action.pdf, (17.12.07).

UN Climate Change Conference 2007; EU side events and presentations in Bali. http://ec.auropa.eu/environment/climat/bali_07_conf.htm, (17.12.07).

European Commission; Climate Change: EU welcomes agreement to launch formal negotiations on a global climate regime for post-2012; MEMO/07/588, 15.1.207. http://www.europa.eu …, (17.12.07).

Picture:

UNFCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), Bali Climate Change Conference, UNO

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