Posted by: eengelh | December 11, 2007

Rich-Poor Divide Blocks Progress

Filed by Erika Engelhaupt

Bali, Indonesia—

kyoto-cake_blog.jpgConflicts among nations, particularly over the interests of developed versus developing countries, stab at the heart of every decision being considered in Bali.

Today, on the Kyoto Protocol’s tenth anniversary, nations squabbled over a call in the Bali roadmap for developed nations to reduce their emissions by 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020. The U.S. strongly opposes the range, even though it would be non-binding, says lead U.S. negotiator Harlan Watson. The U.S. wants “a Bali roadmap that will set up a negotiation process to be completed by 2009,” Watson says, and setting any target now would mean “starting out with a predetermined answer” to those negotiations. Developing nations counter that rich nations must bear a large share of the burden.

The 25-40% range of cuts by 2020 comes from one of the more ambitious analyses laid out in the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Similarly, scientists from the IPCC recently recommended 50% reductions by 2050 in an independent declaration.

An early draft of the roadmap had reportedly cut the target range from the text. Today, Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) denied that the language had been removed, which was confirmed in a draft circulated later in the day. Secretary de Boer emphasized, however, that the range would provide guidance for planning only. “This conference will not set targets for nations,” he said.

A call for solidarity

Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General, called for an end to the fighting on behalf of developing countries. He spoke in Bali Tuesday evening to introduce the UN Development Program’s recent report on climate change and development, which calls for $86 billion in annual funding by 2015 from developed nations (about 0.2% of their GDP) to help the developing world adapt to climate change. Calling climate change “the greatest threat to development” facing the world today, Ban said “we must make climate change our highest international priority.”

“This is an obligation the rich world has to meet,” said Kevin Watkins, lead author of the UNDP report. He called it “frankly scandalous” that multilateral agreements have spent only about $26 million to date helping developing countries adapt to climate change—roughly one week’s worth of spending on UK flood defenses. The UN process should work to set targets “not defined by national interests,” said Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Program.

Soon, negotiators from rich and poor countries alike will face that challenge when the high-level segment of the meeting begins Wednesday morning with statements from the ministers of each country. Today, helicopters buzzed near the convention site, transporting arriving officials and dignitaries who arrive to find debates already well-entrenched.

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