Saturday, December 15, 2007

Elephant, Indeed

Not resting on his Nobel peace prize laurels, Al Gore has been attending the Bali climate change meeting. The official US delegation has been ... less than helpful in the proceedings. In his speech to attendees, Gore pointed out that "my country is principally responsible for obstructing progress here in Bali." and asked that the delegates "find the grace to navigate around this enormous obstacle, the elephant in the room that I have been undiplomatic enough to name.” The US delegates are standing firm in opposition to a reference to non-binding (yes, NON BINDING!) goals for rich countries to cub emissions by 25-40 percent by 2020. We didn't want to even agree to non-binding goals.

The latest news from the Telegraph is that the US delegation has finally given in a bit - and there may actually be an agreement. Think any of them were swayed by Gore's forceful words? Nah, me neither. But something happened.
America's return to the fold on climate change - after reneging on the Kyoto treaty six years ago - came after a sleepless night and a day of high drama in which the UN secretary general and the Indonesian president called on delegates to show leadership.

In extraordinary scenes, developing countries slogged it out with US delegates on the floor of the conference over the last points of disagreement and the US reconsidered its position in front of the eyes of the world – and backed down.

The "road map" agreed in Bali now means a new climate treaty must be negotiated by the end of 2009 to replace the Kyoto treaty that the United States reneged on six years ago.

The treaty, which will come into force in 2012, also sets up a global agreement to stop tropical deforestation, for which many environmental groups and developed countries have campaigned for more than 20 years. . . .

The conference reconvened, but instead of getting closer together, the two sides grew further apart. Saudi Arabia, in what observers assume was a wrecking tactic, supported India and the United States' chief negotiator, Paula Dobriansky, riposted that India's proposed change was something "we are not prepared to accept".

South Africa then made an emotional appeal for the Americans to reconsider their statement – and was supported by delegation after delegation from the developing world while Miss Dobriansky and James Connaughton, President Bush's climate change adviser, talked increasingly animatedly off-microphone.

The killer blow came from the Harvard-educated representative of Papua New Guinea, Kevin Conrad, who used Mr Connaughton's diplomatic gaffe of earlier in the week to humiliate the Americans.

Mr Connaughton had said: "We will lead. We will continue to lead but leadership also requires others to fall in line and follow."

Mr Conrad said, to applause: "If you are not willing to lead, then get out of the way."

Miss Dobriansky finally pressed her button to speak again and said: "We will go forward and join the consensus."

Dare we imagine progress?


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