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U.S. And China Not Ready to Limit Climate Emissions

NUSA DUA, Bali, Indonesia, December 10, 2007 (ENS) – At the half-way point of the UN climate change conference in Bali, delegates from the world’s biggest polluters, the United States and China, are declining to commit to the steep cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases scientists say are necessary to avert the worst impacts of global warming.

The senior U.S. negotiator said Washington would draft its own plan to cut emissions gases by mid-2008, and would not commit to mandatory caps at Bali. “We’re not ready to do that here,” said Ambassador Harlan Watson.

U.S. chief climate negotiator Harlan Watson (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin)

A Chinese goverment climate expert who is part of the Chinese delegation in Bali conference says developing nations like China need not adopt binding emissions cuts because they have not been pumping out greenhouse gases as long as industrialized countries.

Su Wei, director-general of the Office of National Leading Group on Climate Change, said at a side event last week, “China is in the process of industrialization and there is a need for economic growth to meet the basic needs of the people and fight against poverty.”

The top UN climate official says the Bali conference is not intended to set mandatory emissions limits but to agree on how to get there and on Saturday expressed optimism about the outcome of the meeting.

Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC, the parent treaty for the Kyoto pact, said what is needed is a breakthrough in the form of a “roadmap for a future international agreement on enhanced global action to fight climate change in the period after 2012,” the year the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol expires.

“The main goal of the Bali conference is threefold – to launch negotiations on a climate change deal for the post-2012 period, to set the agenda for these negotiations and to reach agreement on when these negotiations will have to be concluded,” he said.

Conference President Rachmat Witoelar says the Bali roadmap will be a President’s Declaration. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin)
Conference President Rachmat Witoelar, Indonesia’s environment minister, said Saturday that the Bali roadmap would take the form of a President’s Declaration at the end of the Bali conference on Friday.

Witoelar explained that he conceptualizes the roadmap as having several tracks and numerous milestones, including a track for negotiations under the Convention, with a milestone in 2008 and a destination in 2009.

He said the roadmap will also have tracks and milestones to progress issues such as technology transfer, reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries, adaptation implementation, and the Adaptation Fund.

Among the topics under debate, said de Boer, is the need for quantified national emission objectives for industrialized countries – guided by the range of 25-40 percent reductions by 2020 – and the need for emissions to peak in the next 10 to15 years.

De Boer said that technology must be “at the heart of the future response to climate change.” Environmentally sound technologies and sustainable development approaches, he said, could help developing countries “leapfrog the carbon intensive stage of economic development.”

The United States is not ready to commit to limits on greenhouse gas emissions in part because the Bush administration is holding a series of climate conferences with the “major economies” which James Connaughton, head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality will, “reach agreement on a long-term global goal for reducing emissions.”

While the United States is not ready for binding limits, Connaughton says the Bush administration is doing a great deal to limit global warming.
In Bali, delegates hash out their position on funding adaptation to the warming climate.

President George W. Bush proposes to reduce U.S. gasoline usage by 20 percent by 2017, he reminded reporters in Washington before flying to Bali for the high-level segment of the conference, which opens Wednesday.

“We have five different mandatory programs already in place, three of them at the federal level,” Connaughton said, “mandatory fuel economy requirements, mandatory renewable fuel requirements, and mandatory appliance efficiency standards covering most of the major appliances.”

At the state level, we have mandatory renewable power requirements and mandatory building codes that our Department of Energy has been helping to design,” Connaughton said. “And then we have our new effort to try to bring a lot more nuclear power online.”

Despite the unresolved problem of nuclear waste disposal, both the United States and China plan to build more nuclear power plants in the next decade.

Su said China is committed to controlling greenhouse gas emissions by 2010. At a side event in Bali, he said China is endeavoring to reduce energy consumption per unit GDP by 20 percent and increase the country’s share of renewable energy to 10 percent.
Su Wei, Office of the National Leading Group on Climate Change, China

China is closing down backward energy intensive plants and replacing them with advanced ones, Su said, adding that China is implementing 10 priority energy conservation programs, targeting more than 1,000 key energy intensive enterprises.

China is stabilizing emissions of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide from industrial processes at the 2005 level, he said, and controlling the growth of methane emissions, another of the basket of six greenhouse gases controlled by the Kyoto Protocol, although China is not governed by that treaty.

In addition, Su said, China is increasing its forest coverage rate to 20 percent, thereby increasing the absorption rate of the greenhouse gas carbon dixoide by 50 million tons over the 2005 level.

Despite the heat and humidity in Bali, the overall atmosphere at the negotiations is “constructive and agreeable,” says the global conservation group WWF.

Most of the developing countries, united in the G77 plus China, have come to Bali with considerable ambition and are showing flexibility, says Hans Verolme, director of WWF’s Global Climate Change Programme.

“A group of major emerging economies including China, South Africa, and Brazil showed clarity of vision this week and made concrete proposals to tackle technology transfer by proposing a platform for public-private partnerships for technology cooperation.”

The preparedness to engage has, however, not been matched by all G77 countries – Saudi Arabia and Malaysia especially disappointed with “old-fashioned unconstructive contributions,” Verolme said.
U.S. Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts held a press conference in Bali as part of the U.S. Congressional delegation

Contact groups and informal consultations are underway today in a race to finish work before the high-level meeting opens Wednesday.

Delegates completed their work on the Adaptation Fund, education, training and public awareness, mitigation, as well as carbon capture and storage under the clean development mechanism. Talks are continuing on capacity building, communications among developing countries, reducing emissions from deforestation, and technology transfer.

Young people in Bali are making their concerns known. Children from Sunrise School in Kerobokan, Bali presented over a Green Footprints plan of action to UNFCCC Executive Secretary de Boer on behalf of more than 128,000 children from around the world.

That effort expresses hope, but not all young people in Bali are hopeful. “Of late, there has been a feeling of intense frustration within the youth caucus – while the fate of our world hangs on the line, negotiators and decision makers seem intent on creating innumerable obstacles to prevent progress in the negotiations,” writes Australian youth delegate Emily Lawrence on the It’s Getting Hot in Here website.

Saturday was the International Day of Action on Climate with marches, rallies and other coordinated events all over the world urging world leaders to take action on climate change.

In the streets just outside the conference center thousands of Indonesians called upon delegates to curb global warming.

The Greenpeace flagship the Rainbow Warrior arrived in Bali Saturday, escorted by a flotilla of 50 local fishing boats, to “engage delegates,” Greenpeace said. Some delegates have scheduled visits to the ship.
Demonstrators in London Saturday march for urgent action to curb climate change.

Demonstrations took place in Austria, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Germany, Greece, Spain, Turkey and the United States.

Organizers said more than 10,000 people rallied in London despite the cold and rain. They gathered in Parliament Square, some carrying signs reading, “There is no Planet B,” others with signs against biofuels.

Friends of the Earth UK Director Tony Juniper said, “All across the world people are calling on national leaders to take tough and urgent action to combat climate change. It’s essential that our politicians show the leadership required and ensure that the climate talks in Bali speed the world towards a low-carbon future and ensure the long-term security of generations to come.”

In Germany some 10,000 gathered, according to organizers. A symbolic blackout action had people turning off their lights for five minutes in Austria, Germany and Switzerland.

Some 4,000 people rallied in the streets of Brussels despite freezing weather, in an action organized by Coalition Climat, a movement made up of 70 organizations. The day ended with a concert set up by Art for Earth.

In Athens, Greece, fire-eaters entertained a rally of about 1,000 people by blowing flames over the crowd.

About 1,000 demonstrators were reported in Istanbul asking the Turkish government to sign the Kyoto Protocol and reject plans to build nuclear power plans, just approved by parliament.

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