Back from Bali: The °Climate Group reports

20 December 2007

After two weeks of complex and often bitter negotiations characterised by a heady mix of wildly ambitious hopes and fears of outright failure, the outcome of COP13 in Bali was probably fairly similar to what many seasoned observers would expected at the outset.

Governments agreed to start negotiations on an international policy framework that will succeed the Kyoto Protocol and decided that these must be completed by 2009. Talks will include the four major building blocks that were identified as crucial to a successful outcome - mitigation, adaptation, technology and finance - and will involve all major emitting countries, itself a significant political breakthrough. At the same time, however, the Bali Work Plan did not go nearly as far as many had hoped in terms of establishing a concrete emissions or temperature goal for the negotiations or in the magnitude of the commitments that industrialised countries should take on after 2012.

As a result, while Bali made it clear that climate change will take an ever more central role in national and international policy - both in terms of "pure" climate change policy and the incorporation of climate concerns in other areas, with the parallel meetings of trade and finance ministers in Bali a clear indication of the latter - the agreements reached do not yet provide the kind of certainty that businesses will need in order to make long-term strategic and investment decisions.

Some of the more specific concerns include:

  • The outcomes of the negotiations are still uncertain. The two negotiating tracks specify this in different ways: the Kyoto track refers explicitly to the IPCC calls for a 25-40% cut in industrialised GHG emissions and the need for global emissions to start falling within the next 10-15 years while the Convention track refers less concretely to deep cuts in emissions;
  • It is still not clear what this agreement will look like: It could be a single overarching framework, a series of separate agreements or some combination of the two;
  • Likewise it is not clear how climate policies will be factored into trade, investment and energy policies.

Therefore it is fair to say that we now have a road map where we didn't have one before but we don't yet have the resolution needed to know where it will take us.

Over the next two years we will see if governments - and the NGOs, businesses and researchers that influence them - have the ambition to find and set out on the road to a truly low carbon planet.

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