Bali Roadmap agreed, but what does it mean?

Posted by Laura Grant on December 21, 2007
Posted in Green News

From all accounts, it was a tense, emotional and exhausting conference that had to go into extra time to get a result. Two weeks of talking produced an agreement to launch a two-year negotiating process – the “Bali roadmap” – aimed at securing a binding climate deal at a UN summit to be held in 2009 in Copenhagen, Denmark. The new deal will replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. But what is this roadmap and how does it affect us in South Africa?

Besides launching two years of negotiations and setting a clear end date, the roadmap also sets the agenda: it will “evolve” around four building blocks – mitigation, adaptation, financing and technology, said a statement by Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk.

Joanne Yawitch, a deputy director-general in the department of environmental affairs, outlined in an interview on SAfm on Wednesday night what South Africa wanted from the negotiations:
• for the developed countries to take stronger emissions cuts;
• to find a way developing countries can do more to play their part, where possible and appropriate, to increase their mitigation action; and
• an increased focus and priority given to adaptation in developing countries.
In addition, a post-2012 agreement should not have the US sitting on the sidelines as it currently is in Kyoto, she added, the Bali roadmap needs to find a way to include everyone.

Developed countries
At the start of Bali, the European countries had ambitions for emissions reduction targets of 25 to 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020. Under Kyoto the targets are 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. The EU target was not included in the Bali roadmap, however, because of US objections.

The final text of the Bali agreement states only that “deep cuts in global emissions will be required to achieve the ultimate objective” of avoiding dangerous climate change, the BBC reports.

Developing countries
South Africa was joined by Brazil, China and India, among other developing countries, in committing to doing more to combat climate change and to taking measurable, reportable and verifiable mitigation action, Van Schalkwyk said.

Earthlife Africa’s Richard Worthington, who was in Bali on behalf of the South African Climate Action Network, sang the praises of the developing countries for the role they played at the Bali conference. “Developing countries have stepped up to the plate, agreeing to do things that had been deadlocked because they were waiting for the developed countries to make the first move. They had to do it because of the recalcitrance of the developed countries,” he said on radio SAFM on Wednesday.

Yawitch said that many developing countries were already doing quite a lot to combat climate change, citing as examples India, China and the Philippines. There were many attempts to address their greenhouse gas emissions, she said, such as giving greater emphasis to renewable and sustainable energy sources and attempting to reduce their dependence on coal. “Whether it’s enough or not it is another matter entirely,” she added, these efforts need to be recognised.

South Africa has renewable energy and energy efficiency targets set by the department of minerals and energy, said Yawitch, adding, “We have a long way to go … and need to be much more ambitious.”

She referred to the long-term mitigation strategy that the government is currently working on, saying that there is “a lot of potential to do more around our greenhouse gases”. South Africa’s big constraint is its dependence on coal, she said. But the political will is there in South Africa and the country very publicly stated its willingness to do more at Bali, she added.

The negotiations for a new climate agreement will seek to bind all countries to emission curbs from 2013. But it appears unlikely that developing countries will be set binding targets. They may well be asked to adopt voluntary goals on energy conservation, and possibly on pollution from certain industries, the Guardian reports.

For developing nations, the text of the Bali roadmap mentions “measurable, reportable and verifiable” actions “in the context of sustainable development, supported by technology and enabled by financing and capacity-building” – that is, only with support from industrialised countries, the BBC reports.

Development and climate change action
Asked how countries such as South Africa could continue to develop and still cut emissions, Worthington said. “We need to redefine development. Economic growth measures quantity not quality. To live in carbon-constrained world, we need to move to a low-carbon development path.”

South Africa has to start drawing on the abundance of renewable energy sources and not waste the carbon resources that it has to make a quick profit, he said. We can no longer adopt the totally competitive approach which “burns as much resources as possible to make as much profit as possible”.

Signing up the United States
Worthington described the results of Bali as a “glass half full or half empty situation”. “We haven’t won,” he said, “we have another step on the way.”

He said the US’s U-turn on the final day was “heartening”. The Bali roadmap is a “major statement of confidence” in a multilateral approach that involves targets for countries that have produced the greenhouses gases that are causing today’s climate problems, he added.

In his statement Van Schalkwyk said: “The United States’ commitment to join negotiations is an important step forward. But it remains a first step. What we expect from them is a quantum leap – to eventually accept internationally agreed and binding targets. Developing countries demonstrated real leadership in Bali. It is now over to the US to demonstrate leadership and take their fair share of responsibility.”

Adaptation and technology transfer
Worthington said that there’s a lot of work to do in the next two years. There is a need to negotiate the concept of equity because the emissions that are causing global warming are emissions that were concentrated over decades. He added that there needs to be massive flows of resources from north to south.

Kenya’s Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai says much the same thing. From Nairobi she said that industrialised countries have a moral responsibility to help Africa deal with the effects of climate change, Reuters reports.

Maathai said: “As major polluters, industrialised countries have a moral responsibility to assist Africa and the rest of the developing economies by sharing technology to reduce our vulnerability and increase our capacity to adapt to global warming.”

The adaptation fund, estimated to be worth up to $500 million annually by 2012, to assist developing countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change, was launched in Bali. So too was a programme that will eventually lead to the transfer of affordable, climate-friendly technologies such as energy-efficient equipment, solar and modern desalination technologies to developing countries. These are both listed as significant achievements in Van Schalkwyk’s statement.

Maathai said that the agreement on adaptation is important, but far more must be done over the next two years.

Some are estimating that at least $50-billion a year is needed for adaptation in developing countries, the Guardian reports.

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