Not Over Yet: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (in reverse order)

Not Over Yet: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (in reverse order)

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The Ugly

Halfway through the night Thursday — well after normal work hours — the U.S. delegation put out a proposal designed to stall the negotiations. It wasn’t just your average difficult negotiating point. They actually threatened to make the whole discussion of reducing greenhouse gas emissions voluntary for all countries. Meaning, the over 30 countries that have already agreed to emissions reductions under the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol would go back to voluntary emissions targets. Meaning, there would be no targets at all for emissions reductions from industrialized countries. Meaning, in all likelihood, the planet would cook – ugly.

Oddly enough, just before press deadlines in the United States, the U.S. delegation pulled this proposal off the table.  Interesting timing?  But they succeeded in being incredibly obstructionist at a very inconvenient time. Very poor form, embarrassing, obnoxious, and one of the ugliest parts of these talks.

The Bad

Many of the substantive issues under discussion here in Bali seem to be agreed, but they don’t go far enough. If there is a mandate to go forward with discussions on the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, after 2012, it will be a shell of what it could have been. Nearly continuous blocking on the part of the United States, Japan, and Canada on issues like funding and plans for adaptation and technology sharing means that the negotiations will start at square one on these critical issues for developing countries.  Beyond that, it is still very unclear what will happen to the emissions targets discussion, and that is very bad.

Another critical issue on the mitigation side not agreed to during the two weeks — not the most contentious at these talks, but a major issue going forward — was emissions reductions for international air travel and shipping. Failing to deal with these substantial and growing emissions sources is also deserves a bad mention.

The Good

There has to be something good in all this, right? Well, maybe better to ask tomorrow, when perhaps ministers will pull something out of their hats to bring these talks towards some sort of conclusion. The good I did see this week within the negotiations was a sincere willingness of nearly all parties other than the United States — and particularly the developing countries and the European Union — to work towards a strong global agreement on global warming. Unfortunately, it is looking like the bad and the ugly may hold sway right now.