Last Chance For Our Planet?
Global Greens at the U.N. Climate Change Congress in Bali
Mike Feinstein, Advisor, International Committee of the Green Party of the United States
With the eyes of the world upon them, more than 11,000 delegates, observers and media converged on the small Indone sian island of Bali for the United Nations Framework Con vention on Climate Change (UN FCCC), December 3-14. The question before them was “would/could the nations of the world agree to next steps on confronting climate change?”
The consequences of inaction, according to the Fourth Assessment of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released earlier in the year, would be stark and catastrophic with the world’s average temperature rising by as much as six degrees centigrade by the end of the century, causing serious and, in many cases, irreparable harm to societies, ecosystems and economies worldwide.
At least 40 high-ranking Greens attended the UNFCC, including 11 from the Asia-Pacific Region, nine from the Americas and 20 from Europe, all hoping to positively impact the negotiations. Most hoped that the Bali UNFCCC would result in specific greenhouse gas emission reduction targets on the levels recommended by the IPCC, but they also knew in reality this was highly unlikely. However, they did their best to influence the negotiating positions of their national delegations, of which many of them played an influential part.
Many Greens in Bali were elected officials who were part of their countries’ national delegations, including one Senator (Christine Milne, Australian) and seven members of national Congresses or Parliaments: Ulrike Hˆfken and B‰rbel Hˆhn (Germany), Sergio Augusto LÛpez (MÈxico) Tinne Van der Straeten (Belgium), Oras Tynkkynen (Finland) and Grazia Francescato and Alfonso Pecaro (Italy). Francescato was also the sole Italian Parliament official representative and Pecaro for the then Italian govern ment’s ruling Olive Coalition, of which the Greens were a part. Two Greens MEPs were also members of the European Parlia ment delegation, Rebecca Harms (Germany) and Satu Hassi (Finland.)
Other Greens attended in a ministerial capacity, including John Gormley (Ireland), Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, who also played a major role as part of the Euro pean Union delegation and Evelyne Huyttebroeck, Belgian Regional Minister for Energy & Environment, who was the head of her nation’s entire delegation. Still others attended as staff and/or advisers for national and state environmental committees.
Finally, Green Municipal officials were in attendance, which is not surprising, since so much positive work on climate change occurs on the municipal level. Included were Malmˆ, Sweden Mayor Lari Pitk‰-Kangas, Rio de Janeiro City Coun cil member Asp·sia Camargo and Rome City Councilmember Francesca Santolini, who, at 30, was the youngest among Green-elected or -appointed officials in attendance. Former municipal officeholders included Rio de Janeiro City Councilmember Alfredo Sirkis and myself (Mike Feinstein) as Santa Monica, California Mayor.
There were party officials like Ger man Green Party co-chair Reinhard Butikofer and New Zealand Green Chief of Staff Paul Bensemannand with likely other party members in attendance in conjunction with various NGOs.
Global Greens Statement on Bali Released
On December 7th, the Global Greens released the statement “Global Greens Declaration for Bali: Time for commitments” across the globe, as well as in Bali, where 1,000 copies were distributed at both the official proceedings at the Bali International Convention Center and the NGO side events at the nearby Grand Hyatt.
Greens and the Media
Many Greens did interviews with their domestic press during the UNFCCC. Melanie Mullen (Canada) appeared on Canadian national TV station CTV, accusing Canadian Environmental Minister John Baird of duplicity in his comments to a UNFCC plenary session. Baird had claimed that Canada would “meet its commitments” by realizing a 20 percent emissions reduction by 2020. Mullen called out that what Baird and Canada’s Con servative government really mean is a reduction over 2006 levels, not the 1990 levels Canada agreed to when signing the Kyoto Treaty.
Mullen also criticized Baird’s reference to the UNFCCC’s principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities.” “When countries speak of this,” said Mullen, “it’s to reflect the right to develop for developing countries and to address the issues of poverty at the same time as they struggle to reduce their emissions. It is certainly not to excuse developed countries who are trying to avoid their historic responsibility.”
Canadian Green Melanie Mullen with Indonesian Environmental Minister Halimah Syafrul (left).
Heinrich Bˆll Foundation
The German Green-affiliated Heinrich Bˆll Foundation played a major role in Bali, organizing and hosting several workshops, including “Greenhouse Development Rights: The Right to Development in a Climate Constrained World” and “Nuclear power: Myth and Reality”. The latter put to rest the idea that nuclear power should be part of any approach to climate change. The former laid out a framework labeled “Green house Development Rights” (GDR), which seeks to set up a consistent burden-sharing system combining responsibility, measured by each country’s present and past contribution to greenhouse gas pollutions, as well as capacity, defined as the ability to pay for emissions reductions and adaptations to climate change, while at the same time trying to lift itself out of poverty and provide a basic quality of life development threshold for its people.
The originality of this approach lies in its intra-national focus, envisioning a $9,000/year development threshold. Those in a country’s population falling below the threshold would not have to contribute to climate change costs for they would need to be able to cover the costs of basic necessities, such as food and shelter. The part of the population that does earn more than $9,000 a year and which spends more on luxury consumption would have a greater ability to pay for mitigation and adoption.
While this approach puts most of the costs on the shoulders of developed countries, with exception of people in those countries earning less than the development threshold, developing countries will not be completely exempted as there do exist population strata in those nations that certainly make more than $9,000 a year, particularly in India and China.
Under this overall framework, the United States would be responsible for about one third and the European Union about one quarter of all future greenhouse gas emissions globally, with China responsible for seven percent and India approximately one half of one percent.
On Sunday evening, December 9th, the Heinrich Bˆll Foundation also hosted a high-energy dinner reception mixing various green movement leaders, mostly from countries of the “global south” together with the Green Party members present in Bali.
A Green Party in Indonesia?
One of the ongoing activities of the Global Greens has been to network with groups hoping to start Green Parties in countries where there isn’t one yet. On Monday, December 10, about fifteen Greens met with a group hoping to start a Green Party in Indonesia. The meeting occurred just outside of the official UNFCCC zone in the Nusa Dua area, because regular Balinese were not allowed there if they weren’t part of the Congress.
Founded on July 6th, 2007 and called Sarejat Hijau Indonesi (Indonesian Green Party), it came from a history of 30 years as a Green movement organization in Indonesia. Like Greens have in so many parts of the world, Indonesian Greens have come to the conclusion that they need to form a new electoral organization to bring about the social/political/economic transformation needed in a country where 0.2 percent of people own 56 percent of the land.
At present, Sarejat Hijau Indonesi has groups in 21 of Indonesia’s 33 provinces. It is hoped that by 2011, it will be a full-fledged party. To qualify, Indonesian law requires a new party to have 50 members from at least 25 percent of all sub-regions in Indonesia. There are approximately 4,000 sub-regions, making this task formidable.
There were many questions from visiting Greens about how consumption of palm oil in Europe and North America leads to destruction of the Indonesian tropical forests. The status of these forests was a “flagship” topic at Bali. Inter national initiatives on deforestation are long overdue. Indonesia has the notoriety of being the third largest greenhouse gas emitter behind China and the United States because of its position as the world’s leader in deforestation, clearing, according to a University of Virginia study, five football fields of forests a min ute, 80 percent of which is thought to be illegally cut.
Many Greens agreed to exchange information with the Indonesians on how companies in their own countries contribute to the destruction of the Indonesian forests. It appears that European Greens in Bali were able to have a positive effect on this issue: The European Union has now indicated it is likely to set its bio-fuels target below 10 percent because of the destruction of tropical forests that a higher target would bring.
Final UNFCCC Agreement
Walden Bello, Board Member, Inter national Forum on Globalization, and speaker at workshop sponsored by the Heinrich Bˆll Foundation gave the following statements:
“The U.S. was brought back to the fold, but at the cost of excising from the final documentóthe so-called Bali Road mapóany reference to the need for a 25 to 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2020 to keep the mean global temperature increase to 2.0 to 2.4 degrees Celsius in the 21st century.”
[In order to appease the U.S.] “Reference to quantitative figures was reduced to a footnote referring readers to some pages in the IPCC 2007 Report which simply enumerate several climate stabilization scenarios. The alternative scenarios ranged from a 2.0 to 2.4 degree rise in temperature to a 4.9 to 6.1 degree increase. This prompted one civil society participant to remark that the Bali roadmap is a road map to anywhere.
“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 US president with a new policy on climate change at the beginning of 2009, the US would have rejoined a process that would already be moving along with strong binding targets. As it is now, having been part of the Bali consensus, Bush administration negotiators, say skeptics, will be able to continue their obstructionist tactics to further water down global action throughout the negotiations in 2008.
“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. More over, the seed funds from the developed countries are expected to come to only between $18.6 million to US$37.2 millionósums, 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 ap proved, 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.”
Greens on Final UNFCCC Result
Christine Milne, Senator, Australian Greens:
“The outcome of the Bali COP/MOP, although not unexpected was very disappointing. The urgency of the global crisis played second fiddle to national sovereignty. While delegation after delegation spoke of the seriousness of global warming it was clear that political will does not yet exist to respond to the crisis quickly enough to avoid catastrophic climate change. The Greens are needed in this political context more than everówe are the only political party which has global reach, is united under one charter and has a serious, scientifically-based agenda to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
“While Australia, following the change of Gov ernment in the November 2007 election agreed to ratify the protocol but they are still chairing the Umbrella Group and it is unclear whether it will use this position to continue to stall and frustrates negotiations or to demonstrate leadership in by dragging recalcitrant governments like the USA closer to the more realistic targets. Domestically there is still no commitment to underpin national policy with an objective of restraining the average global temperature rise to 2 C or less.”
“The success of the Greens in the election means that after July 2008 the Australian Greens will have five Senators, party status for the first time and will share balance of power in the Senate. Achieving more rigorous reduction targets and policies on climate change will be our top priority in this new political arrangement.”
Dr. Peter Doran, Green Party National Executive Council, Ireland:
“The Bali Roadmap is the culmination of an exceptional year for climate change politics; a year that witnessed a turning point in climate politics on the ground in electoral politics (e.g. Australia) and a breakthrough into the high politics of the UN Security Council and the G9.
“Further progress on fulfilling the work mandated by the Roadmap will continue to rely significantly on political events and forces beyond the corridors of the UN-sponsored negotiations, notably on the continuing role of civil society, on the role of climate in domestic politics (e.g. in the U.S. and on the leadership opportunities that now await heads of state who are prepared to recognize climate as a unique political challenge.”
Paul Bensemann, representative of the New Zealand Green parliamentary team at Bali:
“Bali seems a small international ex tension of the Greens’ role at Parlia ment. Our influence is largely unheralded, but vital. For many weeks before Bali, Green Co-Leaders Jeanette Fitzsimons and Russel Norman lobby hard at cabinet level for New Zealand to take a strong stance on deforestation. The backroom talks come as part of our on going tropical forests campaign which includes oral and written questions at Parliament, street demonstrations and most importantly other confidential talks we are having both with officials who want to stop the unsustainable-timber trade and New Zealand company executives who inadvertently support it. It all leads to a much better prepared and strengthened Government position.
“Minister Responsible for Climate Change Issues David Parker, in his main speech to the conference, calls for ëmore decisive and ambitious action on Ö deforestation and forest degradation. The tropical forests are the lungs of our planet. Here in Bali we can show Ö we are prepared to act boldly and responsibly on this issue.”
“He outlines, as an incentive to serious talks, the idea of a new protocol to the climate change convention dealing specifically with deforestation. Instead the conference agrees on a document, ëReducing Emissions From Deforestation in Developing Countries: Approaches to Stimulate Action,’ in which New Zealand plays a significant role.
“Over most of the second week, I sit with New Zealand negotiator Bryan Smith with 100 to 200 other deforestation delegates, including in closed sessions. At each break, he rushes between countries seeking compromises or stronger wording. He brokers small informal meetings late at night and the early morning between a few disputing countries and continents (Europe, Africa and South America act as influential blocks).
“The resulting ëreducing emissions’ document has been criticised by some forestry campaigners along the lines of ënot saving a single tree’ but is a huge first step internationally; acknowledging contributions of both deforestation and selective logging to greenhouse gas emissions, calling for independent monitoring and in diplomatic language urging richer countries to pay poorer countries to stop logging.
“Confrontation has its placeóin our forest campaign, for example, executives of ANZ (which financially supports a tropical logging corporate) and Big Save (the biggest importer here of timber furniture) did not seriously engage with Russel until street protests outside their premises. But the Greens’ preference for consensus and consultation, sometimes at the expense of vote-catching publicity, often leads to better outcomes. For me, Bali and New Zealand’s role there, proves that.”
Evelyne Huyttebroeck, Belgian Regional Minister for Energy & Environment:
“The final documents are compromises, and don’t contain all the items that I had wished for (reference on the IPCC report instead of clear reduction targets in the Bali Action Plan, nothing about the role of aviation…), but the most important thing is the launch of the negotiation process in which ALL the countries, including the USA, China and India, will take part. The day before, nobody thought that we would reach this agreement.
“The objective now is to reach an agreement on a new binding instrument post-Kyoto. The EU hopes that the new US president will facilitate the reaching of a global agreement, which is what happened with the new Australian government. Finally, we now have a new element that we didn’t have 10 years ago when we negotiated the Kyoto protocol: the reality of climate change has been confirmed by the IPCC report and has been recognised by all governments, and public opinion won’t accept it if the world community doesn’t reach a good agreement in 2009.”