UNFCCC starts in Nusa Dua Bali

The much anticipated UNFCCC (UN Framework Conference for Climate Change) has started in Nusa Dua, Bali. The security levels are significant, with thousands of police and army on standby.

Anyone in the Nusa Dua / Kuta / Seminyak area will of seen patrol cars, helicopters and armed police with rifles at major intersections. The Indonesian government wants this conference to be a success and there has been extensive re-surfacing of roads in the last month. Here’s more from the Jakarta Post.

Government leaders to start marathon discussions on saving the planet

BALI (AP): Government leaders started arriving Sunday for what are expected to be lengthy and contentious negotiations on how to fight global warming, which could cause devastating sea level rises, send millions further into poverty and lead to the mass extinction of animals.

Delegates from more than 180 nations will attempt to jump-start talks during the Dec. 3-14 meeting on how to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. They also will consider whether cuts in carbon emissions should be mandatory or voluntary, how to reduce deforestation, and ways to help poor countries, which are expected to be hardest hit by worsening droughts, floods and violent storms.

“There is a very clear signal from the scientific community that we need to act on this issue,” said Yvo de Boer, the general secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. “We have to turn the trend of global emissions in the next 10 to 15 years … The political answer has to come now.”

The Kyoto pact signed one decade ago required 36 industrial nations to reduce carbon dioxide and other the heat-trapping gasses emitted by power plants and other industrial, agricultural and transportation sources. It set relatively small target reductions averaging 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.

A new agreement must be concluded within two years to give countries time to ratify it and to ensure a smooth, uninterrupted transition.

De Boer said industrialized nations, which have pumped the lion’s share of greenhouses gases into the atmosphere to date, should take the lead in reducing emissions. So far the United States, the number one offender, says it will refuse any deal that calls for mandatory reductions.

“Since developing countries are just beginning to grow their economies, it’s not reasonable at this stage to ask them to reduce their emissions,” he said, referring in part to China and India, which oppose caps and any other measures that will impinge on efforts to lift their people from poverty.

“They can be asked to limit their growth.”

The European Union wants Kyoto’s replacement to limit global temperature rises at 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees F) above the levels of the preindustrial era. The EU, Canada and Japan have endorsed a 50 percent emissions reduction by 2050 to meet that goal and avoid the worst affects of global warming.

The United States, which along with Australia refused to sign Kyoto, said ahead of the Bali talks that it was eager to launch negotiations and sought to deflect criticism Washington was not doing enough.

U.S. President George W. Bush said a final Energy Department report showed U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide, a leading greenhouse gas, declined by 1.5 percent last year while his economy grew.

“Energy security and climate change are two of the important challenges of our time. The United States takes these challenges seriously,” Bush said in a statement. “This puts us well ahead of the goal I set in 2002.”

Still, the United States will find itself isolated at the conference, given that Australian Prime Minister-elect Kevin Rudd, whose party swept to power in general elections just one week ago, immediately put signing the Kyoto pact at the top of his international agenda.

Last month in Spain, a Nobel Prize-winning U.N. network of scientists issued a capstone report after six years of study saying that carbon and other heat-trapping “greenhouse gas” emissions must stabilize by 2015 and then decline.

Without action, they said, temperatures will rise, changing the world.

The Arctic ice cap melted this year by the greatest extent on record. Scientists say oceans are losing some ability to absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide, the chief industrial emission blamed for warming. And the world’s power plants, cars and jetliners are spewing out carbon at an unprecedented rate.

At best, analysts believe, Bali could lead to a two-year negotiation in which the United States under a new administration, the Europeans and other industrial nations commit to deepening blanket emissions cuts. And they say major developing countries could agree to enshrine some national policies – China’s auto emission standards, for example, or energy-efficiency targets for power plants – as international obligations.

Let’s hope the unique culture and friendly people of Bali will put the delegates in the positive frame of mind needed for meaningful advances. The atmosphere in Seminyak right now is no different from normal, with expats and holidaymakers enjoying the weather and going about their business.