By Walden Bello
Bali will be remembered, among other things, because it marked the entry of the global justice movement into the climate change negotiations. It was attended by civil society organizations working in trade and development such as Oxfam and the World Development Movement, but also popular movement networks such as Via Campesina and Jubileo Sur.
With 48 hours to go until the climate conference comes to an end in Bali, the general expectation is that the 13th Conference of the Parties will produce a watered-down "Bali roadmap" that reflects the way countries are once again leaning and They backtrack seeking to entice the United States to join a post-Kyoto multilateral process aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The expected declaration is supposed to embody an agreement between the parties to laboriously forge the details of a negotiating framework for the 14th Conference to be held in Poland in 2008, and reach a final agreement by the 15th Conference in Denmark in 2009.
It is also expected to contain a reference to a 25-40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, from 1990 levels, despite the fact that Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the UNFCCC The United Nations on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was quick to deny it, saying that this was not "a goal."
Australia returns to the flock
The opening session of the "high-level segment" of the meeting, which has been deliberating for almost 10 days, was marked by the dramatic appearance of the new Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who took office just 10 days earlier, and who personally delivered the instrument of ratification of the Kyoto Protocol approved by your country to the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon. Under the previous government headed by John Howard, Australia had allied with the United States and had not ratified the protocol. In the attitude of someone trying to atone for the sins of his predecessor, Rudd made public his support for the new multilateral agreement, presenting mandatory emission targets and promising a 60 percent reduction in GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions for the year. 2050, compared to 1990 levels. "There is no plan B," he told participants. "There is no escape to another planet."
Some climate activists, however, did not agree with Rudd's words, complaining that they are not yet reflected in the conduct of Australian negotiators, who apparently remain prisoners of the obstructionist paradigm of the Howard regime.
The repeated interventions calling for binding goals contrast with the realities of a background marked by the absolute lack of a positive attitude on the part of the United States, the obstructionism of Canada - the country that has replaced Australia in the role of the best ideological ally. George W. Bush — and Japan's poorly concealed backsliding from mandatory emissions cuts, as a result of enormous pressure from Japanese industry. On the other hand, China and the Group of 77 surprised some observers who have been monitoring the Kyoto process for a long time, showing themselves willing to take over their share, if the developed world were willing to decree significant GHG reductions and finance technology development and transfer to assist developing countries in the transition to a low carbon economy.
There have been strong tensions between the North and the South, and on Tuesday, December 11, the talks broke down on three issues, one of them, the key problem of technology transfer to help the countries of the South to cope with the global warming. According to Pakistani Ambassador Muir Akram, chairman of the Group of 77 bloc and China, the disagreement was generated over whether to use the term "facilitate" as the developing countries wanted or "program", the preferred word of the North. . In the opinion of an undersecretary of the environment from a developing country who did not want to be named, "the United States sent dinosaurs into these negotiations, and that is why we are locked on 80 percent of the issues." Washington is the black beast in Bali, and those most frustrated with this situation are American climate change activists who are constantly apologizing for the intransigence of the Bush administration.
Differences within the Group of 77, although much less visible, have not been absent. Malaysia, for example, surprised developing country delegates at the beginning of the negotiations when their representative appeared faithfully following the US line, saying he wanted an institutional outcome of the negotiations that was "flexible" and "non-binding". . At a side event sponsored by the government of India, held on Wednesday, December 12, one of the exhibitors suggested that commitments to reduce GHG emissions should depend on whether the country belonged to the OECD or to a rich bloc, to the countries from the third world, or to a third category made up of "a great country." The latter in an obvious reference to China, whose presence in the Group of 77 makes many uncomfortable - particularly the small island states that urgently demand emergency assistance to deal with the rising sea level that is already drowning them. - seeing that their interests are interwoven in the dynamics of the negotiations between the North and China. Rich countries want China, which is on track to surpass the United States as the largest GHG emitter and experiences record but environmentally destabilizing economic growth, to eventually be included in a mandatory emissions reduction regime. They support the same demand, although not with the same force, with respect to Brazil and India.
The transnationals burst into full swing
Bali is likely to be remembered as the conference where big business entered the climate change debate in a big way. A significant number of side events have focused on market solutions to the GHG problem, such as emissions trading programs. Under these programs, countries that emit GHG intensively can "offset" their emissions, paying others that emit little to give up highly polluting activities, with the market acting as mediator.
Shell and other major polluters have been advocating that the market is the best solution to the climate crisis, a position that ties in well with that of the US government against mandatory emission reductions. United Nations officials justify the increased presence of the private sector by saying that 84 percent of the US $ 50 billion needed to combat climate change in the coming years must come from the private sector, and that it must be "incentivized."
Climate activists have been stunned and horrified as transnationals have taken over the discourse on climate change. An activist from India emerged from a session on "weaving links between emissions trading markets," muttering under his breath: "I can't believe it. These guys have their own specialized jargon. I didn't understand a word they said." .
According to Kevin Smith of the Durban Network on Climate Justice, "In the beginning, the carbon market was a very minor part of the architecture for dealing with climate change, a point that climate activists We accept to be able to add the United States to the Kyoto train. Well, it turns out that the United States never got on the train, and now we are crammed with carbon markets guiding the process, because the big companies discovered that money can be made with climate change".
Smith and others argue that the carbon market as a solution is a panacea that only serves to keep polluters in the North from polluting, while allowing the private sector in the South to displace small farmers to establish tree plantations, without monitoring or regulation, which supposedly would absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
The World Bank provokes protests
The World Bank has also had an important presence at the conference. This has not been to the liking of many of the parties. For more than a week, negotiators have been discussing the mechanism for managing the funds that will be used to assist countries that are in the first line of fire in the climate crisis. Developed countries wanted the World Bank to be the trustee of the funds and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to act as administrator. This was not to the liking of developing countries, which have many negative experiences of the GEF under the Bank's leadership. The situation was resolved only when the parties agreed to establish a "Board of the Adaptation Fund", composed mainly of developing countries, which will be in charge of supervising the administration of the funds by the GEF.
Launch of its Forest Carbon Partnership Facility - an initiative that aims to use market mechanisms to compensate developing countries with large areas of forests, including host country Indonesia , for not cutting them down — was accompanied by an even stronger reaction. About 100 activists held an hour-long lightning demonstration at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, putting Bank President Robert Zoellick on the defensive. The protesters, including members of the Indonesian Civil Society Forum, Friends of the Earth International, the Global Movement for Tropical Forests, the World Forest Coalition, Jubilee South, the Durban Network on Climate Justice and Focus on the Global South, They warned that the incorporation of forests into the carbon market is nothing more than guaranteeing their transfer into the hands of large private interests.
One of the central concerns of the protesters was the fate of indigenous communities. The initiative proposed by the Bank, they warn in a statement, "could be the trigger for new expulsions, greater conflict, and violence. As the value of forests increases, they will be declared prohibited access for communities living in they or depend on them for their livelihood. "
Global civil society bursts onto the scene
The mass action against Zoellick inside the conference venue reveals another reason why Bali will be remembered. It marked the entry of the global justice movement into the climate change negotiations. Not only did civil society organizations that work in trade and development such as Oxfam and the World Development Movement attend, but also popular movement networks such as Vía Campesina and Jubileo Sur. A space called Villa of Solidarity for a Planet without Warming was set up less than a kilometer from the conference venue, organized by Gerak Lawan or the Indonesian People's Movement against Neocolonialism and Imperialism, together with other social movements and organizations. regional and international events, which served to host a parallel conference with hundreds of participants. This week-long event was attended by representatives of environmental refugees from the Pacific Islands, indigenous peoples threatened by forest carbon trading programs, and farmers from Via Campesina.
The emergence of activists for development and trade justice introduced an atmosphere of conflict to the negotiations - similar to that of the WTO ministerial meetings - which had previously been marked by a civilized and even friendly relationship between the government negotiators and climate lobbyists. "This opening of the process to people who put new issues - like trade and justice and empowerment of people - to carve into the equation has been a bit disconcerting for NGOs that have traditionally followed the climate negotiations," Emma stated Toast of Friends of the Earth Australia.
"Climate Justice" was the slogan that brought together the different groups in the Villa de la Solidaridad. In a statement made public at the end of the meeting, the participants expressed: "By climate justice we understand that the countries and sectors that have contributed the most to the climate crisis - rich countries and transnational companies from the North - must pay the cost of guaranteeing that all peoples and future generations can live in a healthy and just world, while respecting the ecological limits of the planet. In Bali we are taking a new step towards building a global movement for climate justice. "
Bali, December 13, 2007.
* Walden bello is the principal analyst at the Bangkok-based research institute Focus on the Global South, and a professor of sociology at the University of the Philippines. He is also Chairman of the Philippine Debt Liberation Coalition. -
Published in Trade Focus, Focus on the Global South (FOCUS) newsletter - http://www.focusweb.org