Looking forward looking back

While the Bali conference is finally over, work on its roadmap is only just begun. Below, am pasting a summary of Bali prepared by the Earth Negotiations Bulletin. The full report can be found on their website: http://www.iisd.ca



You should not be impelled to act for selfish reasons, nor should you be attached to inaction. (Bhagavad Gita. 2.47)

Marking the culmination of a year of unprecedented high-level political, media and public attention to climate change science and policy, the Bali Climate Change Conference produced a two-year “roadmap” that provides a vision, an outline destination, and negotiating tracks for all countries to respond to the climate challenge with the urgency that is now fixed in the public mind in the wake of the headline findings of the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report. The outline destination is an effective political response that matches both the IPCC science and the ultimate objective of the Convention; it was never intended that the Bali Conference would focus on precise targets. Instead, the divergent parties and groups who drive the climate regime process launched a negotiating framework with “building blocks” that may help to square a number of circles, notably the need to reconcile local and immediate self-interest with the need to pursue action collectively in the common and long-term interests of people and planet. The informal dialogue over the past two years has now been transformed into a platform for the engagement of parties from the entire development spectrum, including the United States and developing countries.

This brief analysis opens with a discussion on the complexity of the climate change process, and describes the elements of the Bali roadmap and their potential significance in enabling negotiations on the future of the climate regime, including a post-2012 agreement. It identifies the main political achievements of the Conference, and assesses some of the specific outcomes from negotiations on the so-called “building blocks” of mitigation, adaptation, financing and technology transfer.


Of the 10,000 participants in the Bali Conference, it is likely only a handful of them had a meaningful grasp of all the pieces that now make up the deepening complexity of the climate change regime. Delegates in Bali had to balance meetings of the UNFCCC COP and the Kyoto Protocol COP/MOP, along with the subsidiary bodies, the Ad Hoc Working Group, dozens of contact groups and informal consultations on issues ranging from budgets to national reporting to reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries, not to mention side events held by governments, international organizations, business and industry, and environmental NGOs. Balancing the large number of participants, issues and negotiating venues requires stamina, time management and a lot of creativity. With the launch of new negotiations on a long-term agreement, which, by definition must be more ambitious than anything that has gone before, yet another piece has been added to the ever-growing complex puzzle that makes up the climate regime.

Managing this deepening complexity in a highly sensitive – and largely transparent – political environment has become an extraordinary feat, undertaken by a UNFCCC Secretariat that continues to impress participants with a combination of professionalism, competence and good humor. The UN Secretary-General’s decision to adopt climate change as one of his own UN system-wide priorities, with a more effective division of labor and lines of accountability on climate-related issues throughout the UN system, will shore up the resources required for the future. A greater emphasis on the need to draw on expertise found outside the immediate UNFCCC process was also a notable and timely feature of discussions in Bali.

Nevertheless, the challenge of defining precisely what elements of the Bali decisions and outcomes constitute the “Bali roadmap” is its own complex work in progress. For example, what exactly is the nature of the agreement that must result from the Bali roadmap? This is still a matter of debate, with divergent views on the legal form or architecture that will accommodate and, perhaps elaborate, existing commitments under the Convention and the Protocol in the near term and after 2012. So, while the Bali roadmap was never categorically defined, most are viewing it as a compendium of decisions and processes adopted and launched by the COP and COP/MOP, which can be divided into three types:

· Negotiating tracks;

· Building blocks; and

· Supporting activities, including reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.


The Bali roadmap builds on the negotiating tracks on long-term issues launched at the Montreal Climate Change Conference at the end of 2005. In addition to the legal necessity to address the post-2012 period after the Protocol’s first commitment period expires, the Bali roadmap aims to mend some of the fractures that have evolved in the architecture of the climate change regime, most notably the refusal of the United States to ratify the Protocol. The institutionalization of tensions between developed and developing country parties, the crisis of confidence surrounding the implementation of existing commitments, and a growing need for the distribution of responsibilities to reflect the economic power and responsibilities of major emerging economies, have also haunted the process. The Bali roadmap must continue to provide a means to re-engage the United States in negotiations on future commitments, with some level of comparability with other developed country undertakings; it must develop innovative mechanisms and incentives for the engagement of the major emerging economies; and it will be judged, above all, by the extent to which it addresses the ultimate objective of the Convention – to put the world on a path to avoid dangerous climate change – by responding, without equivocation, to the IPCC’s findings.

At the heart of the Bali roadmap are the negotiating tracks to be pursued under the newly launched Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action and the existing Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Protocol. The work of each track will be important, but – in all probability – it is the convergence of views, with each track taking the work of the other on board, that will inform deliberations on the ambition and the means for all to contribute to a future agreement or agreements.

One indication of the likely contents of the roadmap came early on in Bali in an intervention by COP President Witoelar during the Contact Group on Long-term Cooperative Action. He explained that the roadmap has a track for negotiations under the Convention, with a milestone in 2008, and a destination in 2009. The centerpiece of this track is the decision on the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action, which for the first time sets out a negotiating agenda that encompasses discussions on mitigation for both developing and developed countries. Since the negotiations will take place under the Convention, they will include all parties – developing countries and the US. However, there is some question as to the nature of the mandate for this track, other than a reference to the ultimate objective of the Convention. Some have contrasted the work of this AWG with the stronger mandate built into the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Berlin Mandate, which resulted in the Kyoto Protocol. “We may have to return to the COP to clarify and strengthen the mandate; for the moment we have taken a leap of faith,” said one observer, hoping that the work would result in a binding agreement.

On the Protocol track is the work programme, methods and schedule of future sessions of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Protocol. Important aspects of the work of the AWG will be taken on board and feed into the second review of the Protocol under Article 9 at COP/MOP 4.

One of the most significant developments in Bali was a shift that the Executive Secretary likened to the “dismantling of the Berlin Wall.” While a “two-track” approach will continue and maintain a degree of separation between discussions under the Convention and the Protocol, the decision on the AWG on Long-Term Cooperative Action uses for the first time language on “developed” and “developing” countries, rather than “Annex I” and “non-Annex I” countries. This is widely regarded as a breakthrough, as it offers the prospect of moving beyond the constraints of working within only Annex I and non-Annex I countries when defining future contributions to a future agreement. It is anticipated that new approaches to differentiating contributions, tied to countries’ economic capacity, will form part of the future architecture. Moreover, the new AWG will also fully engage and address the future role of the US, which has not ratified the Protocol.

The risk in all of this, identified by some developing country parties, is that certain Annex I parties may seize on this development to “jump ship” and attempt to adopt more relaxed commitments than those under the Kyoto Protocol. This led to proposals for a “firewall” that would lock existing Annex I parties into the most ambitious end of the commitment spectrum.


Integral to the emerging and no doubt cross-fertilizing work programmes across the negotiating tracks are the so-called “building blocks” of mitigation, adaptation, technology and finance. These key issues were considered both under the roadmap negotiations and in related talks on topics such as the Adaptation Fund.

With evidence that the confidence-building phase of negotiations has begun to yield some results in terms of the re-engagement of the US and engagement of major developing country economies, the Bali Conference was regarded by some, notably the EU and major NGOs, as the moment to lock the process into evidence-based negotiations on mitigation and commitments. The timing and ambition of the EU’s agenda was not unexpected and contributed to some of the fiercest exchanges between negotiators.

MITIGATION: The debate on mitigation, notably the terms of engagement by developing countries, in the context of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action, was not resolved until the COP plenary on Saturday. Under the gaze of unprecedented media attention, India turned the final hours of negotiations into something approaching a Bollywood Blockbuster, with star-studded cameo roles by none other than the UN Secretary-General and the President of Indonesia, calling on parties to close a deal. Up until Saturday afternoon, the prospect of a collapse of the negotiations was not ruled out by senior participants.

In a defining moment of the Conference, at the final and dramatic COP plenary session, the US stood down from its opposition to a proposal by India, supported by the G-77/China. The Indian proposal aimed to ensure that mitigation actions by developing country parties are supported by technology, financing and capacity building, subject to measurable, reportable and verifiable procedures. This new paragraph has far-reaching implications for linking developing country participation in a future agreement and confidence that they will access the means to deliver. Fired by a suspicion that developed countries had set up future negotiations that might relax their own commitments, while placing too much onus on developing country contributions, India deftly seized the momentum for the closure of a deal on the roadmap, in the full gaze of the world’s media, to introduce a new rigor to the delivery of developed country commitments on capacity building. Introducing this outstanding debate into the final COP plenary on Saturday was just one of the high-risk strategies deployed to press for closure on issues that had played out for days behind closed doors. In the end, after phone calls reportedly involving Washington, the US delegation dropped its opposition to the Indian proposal, stung by rebuffs from South Africa and Papua New Guinea and lengthy applause from delegates and observers who favored the proposal.

The mitigation debate was also behind contested approaches to referencing the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report. This battle was fought on two fronts: under the Protocol and under the Convention. In the AWG under the Protocol, Russia, Canada, and Japan lined up to oppose a reference to the 25-40% greenhouse gas emissions reduction range in the AWG’s report from Vienna, which included this and other quotes from the IPCC AR4. Noting that media coverage was feeding public expectations that countries were “going to agree” to reductions in this range and that “we have to be careful about presenting the range as the target,” the Russian Federation continued its opposition all the way to the AWG closing plenary. Canada and Japan, which had argued in the informal consultations that Russia should be heeded, changed their position after a concerted campaign by AOSIS to insert a comprehensive reference to the IPCC AR4.

There was less success on the Convention front in the Dialogue on Cooperative Action, where the reference to the IPCC science is weaker. AOSIS was unable to summon up the support for a stronger reference when negotiators met in a small informal group to close on this issue. Participants believe that this will be a weaker starting point for negotiations on cooperative action under the Convention, and the IPCC references may have to be revisited.

ADAPTATION AND FINANCE: One of the significant outcomes bringing together both adaptation and finance was the decision to operationalize the Adaptation Fund, which was set up to finance adaptation in developing countries. The Fund had proven to be particularly delicate to negotiate because, unlike other funds under the UNFCCC, it is funded through a levy on CDM projects undertaken in developing countries and is therefore not dependent on donors. At past meetings, proposals to appoint the GEF as the Fund’s manager have generated controversies between developed and developing countries, and an agreement on the Adaptation Fund Board, operating under the guidance of the COP/MOP, was a significant breakthrough. However, the early stages of the Conference were marked by intensive lobbying by representatives from the GEF who were determined to secure a role in servicing the Fund. In the end, they secured an interim role in providing a secretariat function.

The establishment of the Adaptation Fund was widely applauded. It was also seen as one of several positive outcomes for the G-77/China at this meeting, which some observers note are a reflection of the increasing economic and political clout of this group.

TECHNOLOGY: The basis for an interim funding programme under the GEF was brokered behind the scenes early in the Conference, although agreement on the final details was complicated. Technology funding is expected to be scaled up when a comprehensive agreement on future commitments is reached, possibly in Copenhagen. Governments agreed to kick start a strategic programme to scale up investment in the transfer of both the mitigation and adaptation technologies needed by developing countries. Again, the outcome was widely viewed as a positive one for developing countries.


A decision on reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries is as significant for the wider deforestation debate as it is for the climate regime. As one observer put it, the deforestation issue has suffered from a level of fragmentation and now, perhaps for the first time, may ultimately be brought under a legally binding framework.

There was an agreement to launch a process for understanding the challenges ahead, including through demonstration activities over the next two years, in preparation for addressing these issues in a post-2012 agreement.

A problematic part of this debate was how to include the issue in the post-2012 regime. The US supported a reference to “land use” in the decision on reducing emissions from deforestation, alarming some observers as it recalled broader discussions of land use that included not only forestry but also agriculture and other forms of land management. There was, however, agreement to open up options in future discussions on long-term cooperative action by including in the decision an explicit reference to reduced emissions from deforestation “and consideration of … the role of conservation, sustainable management of forest and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.”


The Bali Conference demonstrated that at certain moments in climate talks, notably when negotiations are taking place in the full gaze of a public and media who are better informed than at any time since the emergence of the climate change agenda, parties come under extreme pressure to face up to the science. The high-level political attention given to climate change has introduced an unprecedented level of interest and investment of expertise by organizations, not only by research and advocacy organizations, but also by the media. The number of side events held in parallel to the conference was also unprecedented, and included two full day events during the weekend: the Climate and Development Days, and the Forest Day.

A youth delegate told the COP plenary, “You can’t negotiate with physics and chemistry.” This, of course, is not entirely true. Parties do disagree with the science, but their arguments can sometimes change when they are exposed to the critical gaze of global public opinion. A feature of the Bali Conference was the shift in a number of positions when negotiators left the closed-door ministerials and returned to the plenary sessions, as illustrated by the pressure that came to bear on the US and Canada in the final COP plenary. Transparency can be a decisive factor.

At COP/MOP 3, the interplay between international climate politics and domestic elections was illustrated by the dramatic win by Kevin Rudd’s Labor Party in Australia. In 2008, another domestic election may have a dramatic impact on the global climate change regime, whatever the outcome. The global public gaze that fixed on the COP plenary in Bali will now turn to the US election in November 2008.

In the meantime, parties to the Convention and the Protocol have succeeded in honoring the call for a “breakthrough” that came from the UN Secretary-General’s climate change summit in September. Bali launched far reaching negotiations with a clear deadline for the conclusion of an agreement on the post-2012 period. Bali was successful in delivering the expected roadmap and building blocks. Now it is up to everyone, negotiators, politicians, public opinion and media to play their respective parts – progress in negotiations, take action, keep up the pressure, and maintain vigilance – to make sure the road from Bali doesn’t end up in the sea.

This excerpt from the summary issue of the Earth Negotiations Bulletin © <enb@iisd.org> is written and edited by Asheline Appleton, Peter Doran, Ph.D., María Gutiérrez, Ph.D., Kati Kulovesi, Miquel Muñoz, Ph.D., and Chris Spence.

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