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Bali Earth Summit begins 3rd. December

Written in FFI Organisation: 11/29/07, 13:24:58 by jonathan  | Print article  | View all categories.
Bali Earth Summit begins 3rd. December|jonathan|1196371498|Q&A:  Bali Conference "Very Much a Make or a Break"
Interview with Yvo de Boer, of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change


Yvo de Boer

BONN, Nov 24 (IPS) - International negotiations beginning Dec. 3 in Bali are crucial for saving our planet from the devastating effects of global warming, says Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Bali is "very much a make or a break" opportunity, according to the UNFCCC chief who hails from the Netherlands. The failure of government ministers and senior officials from around the world to reach an agreement would result in "loss of faith in the U.N. process being capable of delivering," de Boer said. He also called upon developing countries like India "not to be as wasteful as the West". "My ambition would be for India to become the richest country in the world with the lowest per capita emissions," de Boer told IPS European director Ramesh Jaura during an extensive interview conducted at UNFCCC headquarters in Bonn.

Some excerpts from the interview:

IPS: A lot has happened since the Kyoto Protocol was adopted in Japan ten years ago. What does it mean for Bali?

Yvo de Boer: It means that a lot of pressure is beginning to build on governments to really come to grips with this issue and design a long-term response that measures up to what the scientific community is telling us. A climate change policy is very much a science-based policy. It draws on a better understanding of science. Gradually the intergovernmental panel on climate change has managed to paint a clearer picture of what the impacts of climate change are likely to be.

What you now also see is that it is becoming less and less a science that relies solely on models but a science where the models are validated by what is happening all around us.

I think what you have seen certainly in the course of this year, is a growing political realisation or awareness of that scientific message and an increasing realisation that something needs be done in response to it and that applies around the world -- rich, poor, North, South. Realisation is growing everywhere.

IPS: Are you saying that there is no longer a North-South gap on these issues?

YdB: No. There are huge divisions on this issue in the sense that you have the European Union saying that we should limit temperature increase to two degrees, and representatives from small island states saying: "Well if you let that happen then our countries will disappear." You have one group of countries saying we should act urgently on this issue and other countries saying we rely economically entirely on the export of oil. "What are our economic prospects?"

Then we have people in the United States saying "why should we act on this issue, destroy our economy and give our jobs to the Chinese". And we have the Chinese saying "why should we be acting on this issue -- we didn't cause it -- and be lumped in the same basket with the United States.

We have the people in India saying: "You people mention China and India in the same sentences implying we are the same. But in fact we are completely different. Obviously there are huge divisions on this issue, which is what makes it so complicated.

IPS: Won't the tensions that you describe stand in the way of Bali?

YdB: I think those tensions will make a decision difficult because countries will rightfully point out that financial commitments in the past have not been met and they don't believe they will be met now. Countries are rightly saying: why should we now potentially constrain our economic growth to solve the problem that somebody else has caused.

I think the problems, the tensions are right there with us. But I do have the feeling that seeing the evidence of climate change in everyday life, recognising the very clear message that the scientists are providing politicians around the world, is saying that we have to stop bickering and start working on solutions.

IPS: So what do you expect Bali to result in?

YdB: Bali I hope would result in a first step on a long road to really come to grips with climate change. I read occasionally in newspapers that people expect Bali to agree on targets and finalise a regime. That's not my expectation.

I would be happy leaving Bali if there is a decision to launch negotiations, if the agenda for those negotiations is agreed and if a date for those negotiations to be completed is agreed. It is after that real work begins. The real work just in two years -- before the end of 2009 is designing a global agreement that encompasses every country while recognising the need of different approaches with different people. The interests at stake are very different and you have to find your way through those major conflicting interests.

IPS: But what if that objective is not achieved? Will you convene Bali two?

YdB: I hope not. I think we have developed a certain critical mass that can either lead to an agreement in Bali or it can cause disintegration in the form of loss of faith in the process, and loss of confidence in the U.N. process being capable of delivering. So for me Bali is very much a make or a break.

IPS: What about the U.S.? Do you see any change for the better in their attitude?

YdB: There is a change in the attitude in that the U.S. is now indicating a willingness to negotiate. But there are still fundamental differences in the approach favoured by the U.S. on the one hand and the Europeans and the developing countries on the other. Europeans and many developing countries feel that industrialised countries should take on internationally binding targets. The U.S. still favours an approach whereby a target is adopted voluntarily when written into legislation at the national level. So, in both cases it is legally binding. But the level at which it is binding is different. And that is part of the hard work, which I think has to be done after Bali in designing a regime.

I personally think that form follows function and that we should first decide on the substantive elements of a regime and then decide whether it needs to be national, international, legally binding, non-legally binding, and what sort of differentiation you actually need within the regime. I can't conceive long- term policies that measure up to the scientific challenges being posed in a one-size-fits-all-approach. Developing countries like China and India are making very very clear that it is not appropriate for them to make the same kinds of commitments rich industrialised countries make, and it is not appropriate for India to make the same kind of commitments as the Maldives.

IPS: The forthcoming Human Development Report is calling for a Climate Change Mitigation Facility -- with an annual financing mechanism which will have between 15 and 20 billion U.S. dollars per annum -- for the transfer of low-carbon technologies, or for finance to support the deployment of low- carbon technologies in developing countries. Will this bring us forward? How far?

YdB: Some countries are emphasising that we should create a new international fund that would buy down intellectual property rights. I personally don't quite see how that would work. To my mind technology is owned by the private sector. Private sector is not interested in selling technology at cut rates. The private sector is interested in investment opportunities. The clean development mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol whereby rich countries have the opportunity to reduce emissions more cheaply by investing in developing countries has already created a market- based mechanism that opens up investment opportunities that allows technologies be transferred through market. So I think that market-based mechanisms, putting a price on carbon, creating a high demand for emissions reductions in the North will fuel the flow of technology. I would very much favour that doing through the market.

The 20 billion dollars you referred to is more than one-third of total of official development assistance. So if countries are having trouble in meeting their 0.7 percent commitments on official development assistance I don't know where they are going to find another 20 billion a year.

If you bear in mind that a single power plant costs 500 million dollars, then a fund of that size wouldn't go an awfully long way. The International Energy Agency has calculated that in order to supply the energy that you need to fuel the world economic growth you want for the next 25 years, 20 trillion dollars is going to be invested in the energy sector and if that 20 trillion dollars is invested badly it would push the CO2 emissions up by 50 per cent instead of down by the 50 percent the scientists are calling for.

So the challenge for me is how you change the direction of that investment super-tanker. That I think you do by giving very political signals to the market, by expanding market-based mechanisms as we know them at the moment, by introducing standards at the international level so that you have a level plane field, and by introducing taxes where you feel taxes can influence consumer behaviour. We need the whole toolbox of taxes, markets and standards to drive that investment super-tanker in a different direction.

IPS: The lead author of the Human Development Report has said (in an interview with IPS): "The European Union cannot demand from India that it deprives some 400 million people of access to energy amidst such high levels of poverty."

YdB: He is absolutely right. But the question for me is if you have 400 million who don't have electricity at the moment, can you help them to skip the copper age? That is, skip connecting them to the established electricity grid. . . and get them straight into locally generated, decentralised power which is much cleaner? Definitely it should not be about denying people access to energy, but supplying people with access to a modern source of energy.

India should be allowed the same per capita emissions as industrialised countries -- statements like this from an ethical point of view are perfectly correct. But then think that through: that would imply that India's energy bill will be 11 times what it is today. And, in order to get there India presumably will be burning a high ash-content coal. What would be the air quality consequences? What would be the impact on India's public health bill? From an ethical point of view every human being has the right to emit the same quantity. But my ambition would be for India to become the richest country in the world with the lowest per capita emissions.

I think the ambition should not be to be as wasteful as the West -- the ambition should be to be as wealthy as the West, but to continue a very good tradition more prevalent in developing countries, to be frugal in what you use.


Source IPS News