Day four from the Bali UN Climate Conference brought an announcement from the United States delegation. Was it that they had decided to join Australia and become the final industrialized country to ratify the Kyoto Protocol? No. Was it that they were prepared to agree to targets and timelines for emissions reductions and join the Europeans and others in support of a 25% to 40% reduction target by 2020? I am afraid not. Their big announcement was that they have invited the world’s 17 largest greenhouse gas emitters to the second in their series of Major Economies Meetings, or as we like to call it, “The Big Emitters”.
It doesn’t come as a shock that their announcement was process and not substance, but to add insult to injury, they have made clear the meetings WILL NOT lead to country specific reduction targets. It is simply a process to run out the clock on the Bush administrations final year in office. We understand that as of now, while the caterers and hotel rooms have been booked, none of the countries have yet RSVP’d.
The second in the series of the Big Emitters meetings, this time scheduled for Hawaii, distracts from the process that will begin here in Bali. By the end of next week, in order for the Bali meeting to be considered a success, delegates must agree upon nothing short of a strong Bali Mandate. That Mandate must create a clear negotiation process that leads to an agreement for the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol by no later than 2009, This mandate must ultimately produce an agreement that with reduction levels for industrialized countries of at least 25% to 40% and broaden the number of willing to take on targets. President Bush’s Major Emitters meeting is simply a distraction from the process that will be required to produce this post 2012 agreement.
Perhaps countries should consider sending low-level staff to the Major Emitters Meeting in January. Hawaii in January is a lovely place, and the lower level staff deserve a trip once in a while. But high level staff should stay home and work towards delivering the Bali Mandate. Time is short, and we cannot afford to waste it with meetings that blow nothing but hot air.