After a dramatic turnaround by the U.S. on Saturday, stressed and exhausted negotiators agreed on a two-year plan, the Bali Roadmap, for the next international agreement on tackling climate change. Talks dragged on a day longer than scheduled and were revived when the U.S. accepted a compromise agreement.
It’s still a long road: as expected, there are no binding commitments to greenhouse gas cuts in the document. And the agreement provides only a starting point for negotiations that will end in Copenhagen in 2009. However, the new map does lay out some key points along the way and made significant progress in some areas. The roadmap recognizes that “deep cuts in global emissions will be required.” It recognizes an urgent need to reduce greenhouse gases from deforestation and encourages nations to establish pilot projects to address deforestation. And it calls for greater investment in helping developing countries adapt to climate change and obtain the clean technologies, such as renewable energy, that they need to maintain economic development while keeping their own emissions down.
Language was removed from the preamble recognizing that emissions must begin to decline within 10-15 years as well as the importance of negotiating a target range for developed countries of 25-40% cuts below 1990 levels by 2020, but there is a footnote that keeps a reference to that target and timetable in the roadmap. The final preamble emphasizes “the urgency to address climate change as indicated in the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.” The word “urgency” is footnoted, with a reference to pages in the IPCC (pages 39 and 90, here, and also page 776 here). Those pages reference targets and timetables for cuts–how much must be cut, and how fast. Page 776 is important, because it contains a table of emissions reduction ranges needed to stabilize greenhouse gases at certain levels. And one of those is the very range that was cut from the preamble: 25-40% cuts below 1990 levels by 2020 in Annex 1 (i.e. industrialized) nations in order to stabilize greenhouse gases at 450 ppm. That’s an important recognition of IPCC science as a basis for negotiations, and it means that specific science-based emissions targets are not absent entirely from the document.
We will all continue to pore over and pick over this document for some time, but early response seems positive, and there is a real sense of a turning point here in Bali.