The biggest disappointment of the Bali climate negotiations was the lack of any binding commitments to reduce emissions.
The resulting “Bali Action Plan” contains no binding commitments, which European countries had sought and the United States fended off. The plan concludes that “deep cuts in global emissions will be required” and provides a timetable for two years of talks to shape the first formal addendum to the 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change treaty since the Kyoto Protocol 10 years ago.
But was this a failure? I honestly don’t believe we can say that the lack of any binding commitments to reduce emissions was or wasn’t a failure, because the Bali negotiations were merely the first step in creating a post-Kyoto climate agreement to be finalized in Copenhagen in 2009. What was achieved at Bali was the acknowledgment that deep cuts are necessary, and if this results in an effective international agreement to tackle climate change at the end of the negotiations in 2009 then, and only then, will we be able to judge that the compromises made in Bali in order to get the US to sign on to the ‘road map’ were worth it. Ultimately success or failure in Bali, is tied to the success or failure of the climate negotiations in 2009.
What is needed now is a way to move forward that is both fair and includes all major emitters.
Ultimately the only fair way to allocate the world’s rights to emit is the way we allocate votes in a democracy. Each person has equal value. If we divided global emissions entitlements between countries this way, with equal per capita emissions entitlements, China’s population would entitle it to … over four times America’s entitlement.
Of course, once allocated between countries such entitlements should be traded to ensure their most efficient use. It beats me why the developing countries are not playing this card more forcefully now, rather than the delaying game we’re seeing. If citizens of developed countries are too greedy to transition to per capita emissions entitlements quickly, let’s hope we’re not too stupid to do it gradually. Because I can’t see any other way of making the deep engagement of the developing countries politically sustainable.
A gradual transition to such a regime of per capita emissions entitlements would enable developing countries to continue expanding their emissions for some time as they must to continue developing their economies. So we’d have to be prepared to reduce developing countries’ and our own entitlements accordingly.
What is also needed is real leadership from rich countries to push for an agreement that is both fair and effective, something that is sorely lacking in both Canada and the US.
We have no moral or political authority to preach solutions to anyone, anywhere. We’re among the wealthiest people on Earth, in relative terms, and we’re not taking climate change seriously. Why should the Indians and the Chinese do so, when they’re still struggling to pull hundreds of millions of people out of poverty?