climate summit in Bali was a turning point for international environmental
diplomacy. Now the international community is on track to negotiate a
comprehensive global climate policy agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol by
2012 which will also include major emitters like the US and China. Both
developed and developing country emissions will be addressed by new
obligations. New financing mechanisms for technology transfer, adaptation and
forest protection will lead to a significant flow of financial resources from
industrialised nations to emerging economies. Most importantly, Bali has
exposed a shift of power that has been long underway. The US has lost its
singular veto power in the climate process. A group of emerging powers, most
notably China, India, and Brazil - but also a re-emerging Russia - have started
to use their new economic and political weight to shape the negotiations more
actively than before. The European Union tries to retain its political
leadership role by acting as an honest broker between those diverging interests
but will only be able to make a real difference if the transatlantic climate
policy partnership can be revitalised.
The Bali Road Map
The Bali Roadmap sets the stage for two years of negotiations with the objective of creating a comprehensive global climate agreement by the end of 2009. This agreement will replace the Kyoto Protocol. The Bali Roadmap consists of the following core elements:
- new climate policy measures in developed countries "including quantified emission and reduction objectives"
- comparable efforts amongst different developed countries
- "nationally appropriate mitigation actions by developing countries"
- a requirement that developing countries' actions be supported by technology, financing, and capacity building "in a measurable, reportable, and verifiable manner"
precise numbers and concrete legally binding agreements still have to be
negotiated. However, for the first time all parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) committed to
negotiate legally binding climate change mitigation options in the common UN
framework, based on the principle of "common but differentiated
The negotiations that follow will have to create a careful balance between differentiated developed and developing country obligations that has to be backed up. In addition, such a global deal will have to include significant financial components, basically transferring funds from developed to developing countries along commonly agreed priorities. Three such priority areas, technology transfer, adaptation, and forest protection, were discussed in Bali. Each of these issues has the potential to create huge new markets, establish relevant new policy frameworks, and advance new technologies.
A Realignment of Powers
Bali was noteworthy for the enhanced role that major emerging economies played in leading the discussions and shaping the outcome. Four negotiating blocks could be distinguished:
- The EU which led on stronger greenhouse gas mitigation commitments;
- The US (plus some allies like Canada and Japan) which remained reluctant on reduction commitments but keen to see concrete obligations for developing countries;
- China, India and Brazil representing the developing countries block and for the first time accepting possible commitments to reduce emissions for their own economies; and finally
- Russia, which stated in informal consultations that they expect to benefit from climate change and that the proposed reduction commitments were incompatible with President Putin's goals to double electricity production and to increase oil and gas exports.
Consequences for the Transatlantic Relationship
The two necessary cornerstones of any future global climate agreement are legally binding targets and significant finance transfers to developing countries. If the future US administration accepts these cornerstones, then it will have an historic opportunity to resurrect transatlantic leadership on global environmental issues.
The EU and the US have three major reasons to start a new era of climate policy cooperation.
- The US remains the world's major emitter of greenhouse gases, so without the US, the problem cannot be solved. The EU's role remains that of an incubator for progressive policies and new technologies but such technologies must be more widely adapted.
- Europe and the US still have financial resources as well as unmatched technological and scientific potential to address the climate challenge. Only the established industrial powers of the West will be able to develop and introduce new technologies while they are still untested and relatively expensive.
- Both Europe and the US have to support an approach to resolving the climate problem that is based on democratic debate, international law, and a system of global institutions. The assertive style of China, India, and others in Bali has shown that the time when the West defines the rules of the game is coming to a close. A new US administration would therefore show wisdom in helping to build a system of international law and strong institutions that will not only bind Washington but also the future powers to be.
A longer version of this article will be published in Internationale Politik Global Edition.
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