Monday, 17 December 2007
By Walden Bello*
Would it have been better to have simply let the US walk out, allowing the rest of the world to forge a strong agreement containing deep mandatory cuts in greenhouse gas emissions on the part of the developed countries? With a new
One wonders what would have happened had
The single-minded focus on getting Washington on board resulted in the dearth of hard obligations agreed upon at the meeting except for the deadline for the negotiating body, the "Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention," to have its work ready for adoption at the Conference of Parties in Copenhagen in 2009 (COP 15).
Many delegates also felt ambivalent about the institutional arrangements that were agreed upon after over a week of hard North-South negotiations.
· An Adaptation Fund was set up, but it was put under the administration of the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) of the US-dominated World Bank. Moreover, the seed funds from the developed countries are expected to come to only between $18.6 million to US$37.2 million--sums which are deemed severely inadequate to support the emergency efforts to address the ongoing ravages of climate change in the small island states and others on the "frontlines" of climate change. Oxfam estimates that a minimum of US$50 billion a year will be needed to assist all developing countries adapt to climate change.
· A "strategic program" for technology development and transfer was also approved, again with troubling compromises. The developing countries had initially held out for the mechanism to be a designated a "facility" but finally had to agree to the watered-down characterization of the initiative as a "program" on account of US intransigence. Moreover, the program was also placed under the GEF with no firm levels of funding stated for an enterprise that is expected to cost hundreds of billions of dollars.
· The REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) initiative pushed by host Indonesia and several other developing countries with large forests that are being cut down rapidly was adopted. The idea is to get the developed world to channel money to these countries, via aid or market mechanisms, to maintain these forests as carbon sinks. However, many climate activists fear that indigenous communities will lose be victimized by predatory private interests that will position themselves to become the main recipients of the funds raised.
Still, many felt that the meager and mixed results were better than nothing.
Perhaps the best indication on whether the conference was right to bend over backward almost 180 degrees to accommodate the US will come next month in Honolulu during the Major Economies Meeting, a Washington-initiated conference that was originally designed to subvert the United Nations process. The question on everyone's lips is: Will the Bush adminstration revert to form and use the conference to launch a separate process to derail the Bali Roadmap?
*Walden Bello is senior analyst at Focus on the Global South and professor of sociology at the University of the