What Are We Doing on Climate Change?

Sen. Kerry and Kit Batten Discuss the Bali Conference

Read Kit Batten's statement on Bali and listen to a press call with her and Sen. John Kerry, the only member of Congress to attend the conference.

Listen to audio from the conference:

Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), the only member of Congress to attend the Bali Climate negotiations, and Kit Batten, Director of Environmental Policy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, held a Center for American Progress Action Fund press teleconference today to discuss the outcome of the talks and next steps for Congress.

The following is a statement that Kit Batten gave this afternoon at the conference:


Statement from Kit Batten

First of all, I want to thank Senator Kerry for attending the Bali conference and for his strong statements about the extensive current U.S. action on climate change that is occurring at the local, state, regional, and U.S. Congress levels. This message is absolutely essential to communicating to the UNFCCC process that the United States citizens, local, and state governments have already committed to binding emission reductions, and that the U.S. Congress is making significant strides on national legislation to reduce emissions, even if the Bush administration remains committed to voluntary targets and inaction. The fact is over 50 percent of the U.S. population is already covered by binding emissions reduction regulations.

Also, I want to acknowledge the Kyoto Protocol’s 10th birthday today. Global negotiations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have progressed significantly since the ratification of Kyoto, but we still have far to go. We hope that with the arrival of the high-level ministers and officials today and tomorrow that the final negotiated Bali language will provide a strong roadmap to pave the way for the next two COP meetings leading up to the final post-2012 framework.

Here in Bali, the main question I have been asked most often by NGOs and government officials (including those from Japan, India, China, South Africa and a number of EU countries) is:

What is the United States currently doing on climate change?

Senator Kerry’s presence here was essential to demonstrating the U.S. Congress’s commitment to passing not only the Energy Bill as a down payment on global warming but also to a national cap-and-trade system to reduce emissions.

Explaining that the U.S. is poised to reduce emissions by mandating increases in vehicle fuel efficiency, increased production of lower-carbon alternative fuels, and possibly renewable electricity standards and a low-carbon tax package has been important for showing that many in the U.S. are committed to moving forward a strong post-2012 framework.

Several important policy discussions that are currently ongoing in Bali and that will need to be part of the roadmap in determining the post-2012 agreement are:

1. Mitigation measures—or reducing greenhouse gas emissions from developed and developing nations. The negotiations are facing a possible impasse regarding near-term binding emission reductions for industrialized nations. Wealthy industrialized nations (Annex 1 nations) must commit to serious emission reductions in the near term—not only because the science says so, but also because it’s necessary for engaging developing nations in the process. Earlier this week, language committing Annex 1 nations to a 25 percent to 40 percent reduction in emissions below 1990 levels by 2020 was included in the draft language, as well as language explaining that the IPCC has found that global emissions must peak within the next 10 to 15 years and that global emissions must reduce to 50 percent of 2000 levels by 2050.

2. This language was disputed earlier this week by the United States, Australia, Japan, and Canada. I hear that a couple of hours ago, during high-level negotiations, the U.S. strongly opposes a decision that “prejudges outcomes” and that picking targets from the IPCC 4th assessment is unacceptable. (How this is unacceptable is beyond me since these targets must be linked to the best available science presented by the Nobel-prize winning IPCC.) We must have serious near-term emission reductions and peak global emissions by 2015 if we are to prevent a global temperature increase of over 2 degrees Celsius and avoid the worst impacts of global warming. Russia, Japan, and Canada have joined forces with the U.S. on this and have proposed extremely vague language to replace the targets. The U.S. is also continuing to stress the need for the major emitters process and for voluntary targets.

3. If Annex 1 (or wealthy developed) nations do not commit to serious emission reduction targets, it will be more difficult to get developing nations to commit to emission reductions in their own countries. Developing nations have made it clear that developed nations must recognize their right to development and must provide help so that these nations can develop using low-carbon pathways. Developing nations are interested in participating in the process, but want to see serious emission reduction commitments (including investments in reducing deforestation and forest degradation), adaptation resources, and technology transfer (which should include energy poverty alleviation) from developed nations first. Anything less from the developed nations will signal that these countries are not committed to taking responsibility for emitting the majority of the world’s greenhouse gases and creating the problem of global warming that many developing nations are already having to adapt to.

4. Deforestation makes up at least 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Coming up with an adequate way to reduce the rate of deforestation and forest degradation is essential to reducing global emissions. But these deforestation prevention measures must be ensured to be additional—preventing deforestation that would not have otherwise been prevented, must also preserve biodiversity. Talks currently center on the future of forestry in carbon markets, funding for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation, and how to measure baseline levels of deforestation.

5. Adaptation funding is a serious point of negotiation as well. The effects of global warming are already being experienced disproportionately by the world’s poor. The United Nations Development Program released a report with a figure that at least $86 billion additional development dollars are needed per year by 2015 to address adaptation needs for developing nations worldwide. Current spending under multilateral adaptation funding has been less than $26 million over the last 2 years combined. Including language to include continuing discussions for predictable additional financing mechanisms for adaptation funding is necessary. An agreement has been reached that the Global Environment Facility will manage the adaptation funds, and be governed by the UNFCCC.

6. Mechanisms for technology transfer, including available funds, are also being discussed.

It is clear that negotiations over the next few days must provide viable pathways forward for mitigation (including deforestation prevention), adaptation, and technology transfer. The Bali meeting is about setting up a viable roadmap to continue these discussions over the next two years before a binding global framework is released. The stakes are too high for political game playing: If a viable roadmap is not developed over the next few days, achieving a post-2012 framework that will avoid the worst effects of global warming and engage all nations in emission reductions will be made much more difficult.

It is time to move away from confrontational interactions between the developed and developing nations and move toward collaboration in transforming the global economy to a low-carbon model. The U.S., Canadian, Japanese, and Australian delegations must show real leadership and commitment to solving this global problem our nations are largely responsible for by committing to serious reductions in greenhouse gases and international assistance so that the developing world can follow suit.

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