U.S. Leads Coalition of Unwilling at Bali


UNFCCC logoThe clock is ticking as the UN Climate Change Conference in Bali enters its final hours. With the meeting due to wrap up tomorrow at noon (GMT +8), little progress has been made in outlining a follow-up strategy to the UN protocol.

Let’s be clear: The point of the convention has not been to get countries to commit to any emissions reductions, but to plan the framework for future discussions that may or may not yield carbon reduction agreements. It’s several steps removed from any actual hard-and-fast commitments to emission reductions. But it looks like the conference will go down in history as starting with the U.S. alone in not ratifying the Kyoto Protocol and ending with the U.S. scuttling talks, as Al Gore blatantly noted. “My own country, the United States is principally responsible for obstructing progress here in Bali. We all know that,” he was quoted as saying to an applauding audience.

The biggest sticking point for the U.S. is a non-binding statement saying developed nations need to cut emissions between 25 percent and 40 percent by 2020; it refuses to sign anything that does not include emission cuts from the developing world, specifically China and India.

And it has successfully formed a coalition of the unwilling: Japan, Canada, New Zealand and Russia have all joined with the U.S. to help block certain language from being drafted into the convention’s final statement. On the opposing side are members of the EU, who believe the developed world needs to lead the way in cutting emissions.

A perpetually-pessimistic Yvo de Boer, the meeting’s executive secretary, articulates his frustrations with the U.S. in a video uploaded to the conference’s YouTube channel today. Although De Boer says he is “a lot more optimistic,” he is notably tired and dejected.

Delegates are working tirelessly to get the language exactly right, but there is almost no way the U.S. will sign anything that doesn’t require equal emission reductions for developed and developing countries. We’ll see if the convention follows Gore’s advice and moves ahead without the land of the free and the home of the brave.


Jason Morris

I hear your point but refuse to be so doom and gloom. Hypothetical: Democrat is elected president, while they also increase their margin in the Senate. If that happens, then the energy bill that was just watered down by the Senate would have passed and been signed. I don’t see this as that big of a long shot. Furthermore, the individual components (emission reductions, tax breaks for renewable) may be passed come January. The current White House would veto based on the component that repeals oil tax breaks. A change in political climate supported by state and local initiatives will help.


The problem with that viewpoint is that two of the industries responsible for the biggest share of the problem – coal and automakers – are never going to lead. They need the governent to push them or drag them kicking and screaming into the future. And the U.S., beholden to big business, will never do it.

Jason Morris

The state and local US governments will continue to lead the charge here until there is a fundamental change in Washington. You have to hope that the individual and business incentives remain long enough to bridge the time gap until that change takes place.

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