“David Attenborough has said that Bali is the most beautiful place in the world, but he must have been there longer than we were, and seen different bits, because most of what we saw in the couple of days we were there sorting out our travel arrangements was awful. It was just the tourist area, i.e. that part of Bali which has been made almost exactly the same as everywhere else in the world for the sake of people who have come all this way to see Bali.

The narrow, muddy streets of Kuta were lined with gift shops and hamburger bars and populated with crowds of drunken, shouting tourists, kamikaze motorcyclists, counterfeit watch sellers and small dogs. The kamikaze motorcyclists tried to pick off the tourists and the…

Today at the US press conference, James Connaughton, Paula Dobriansky, and Harlan Watson had much to say about what the US wants to come out of Bali and what they are already doing at home to address climate change. They claimed that “we already have prices on carbon” because of the high price of coal, oil, and natural gas. They even claimed we have a price on carbon because of the automobile fuel efficiency standards that Congress is considering and the tens of billions of dollars it will cost to upgrade the US automobile fleet. Goals of reducing greenhouse gas intensity were trotted out as more evidence that the US is a leader on addressing climate change.

Underlying this claim of action and leadership was the reality that the…

Today was the start of the high-level segment of the meetings. This means the big wigs are showing up. Lots of guards with big guns and tinted window motorcades are fluttering about. The morning session started with Ban Ki-moon greeting everyone and making the usual comments on the importance of creating a clear “Bali Roadmap” by the end of the week. He also managed to get in a jab at the US for continuing its stubborn resistance to any emission reduction commitments. Afterward, a few other interesting people spoke, including Yvo de Boer (executive secretary of the UNFCCC), Rajendra Pachauri (Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and Kevin Rudd (newly elected Prime Minister of Australia). Rudd was especially interesting because he said that he was committed to having…

Most of us participating in COP 13 were fortunate to celebrate 10th birthday of Kyoto Protocol. I heard that there was a huge “birthday cake”…..but by the time I reached the event venue, it was all gone. There were many people, interestingly and fortunately, many Yalies among them. Some of them could make to our reception and it was nice to meet the rest who could not make to the reception. The young men and women beautifully clad in traditional kimono were distributing buttons which said ” Kyoto Protocol Our Future” and a CD with Climate Change song from Maldives. Coincidentally, we heard a Climate Change song composed by H.E. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono during the opening session of High-Level segment today.
All in all, it has been a nice experience…

Last month the 150 mph tropical cyclone Sidr hit the coast of Bangladesh claiming at least 2000 lives. More than 1 million people fled and took refuge at cyclone shelters heeding the calls of the recently set up early warning systems. This system operates with a high tech satellite tracking system on one hand, and a group of volunteers carrying bullhorns on motorbikes in the other. The deaths and losses are indeed saddening but the fact that a similar cyclone in 1991 took away at least 140,000 lives gives us some perspective on the immeasurable benefits of early preparedness. This example was given yesterday by one of the panelist at a side event on the ‘economics of adaptation’ at the on going UNFCCC conference in

I have focussed my time here on two categories of meetings: two UN committees (the AWG, charged with setting the road map/agenda of work for the next year and CMP, charged with review of performance under Kyoto to date); and side events about carbon markets run by the IETA (International Emissions Trading Association).

As you would expect the UN meetings are slow tedious, with the real substance hidden in acronyms and cross references to prior UN documents.  However if one listens carefully and spends some time at night with the links to these documents it is possible to get a sense of the issues.  The issue facing the CMP is whether the scope of review of performance under Kyoto so far is limited to the extent of compliance or…

Although side events are fascinating and informative, the real action at COP takes place in contact groups and the official SBSTA (subsidiary body for scientific and technological advice), SBI, and AWG meetings. Some of these, unfortunately, are arbitrarily closed to non-party members (which our group, as part of an NGO, is) although they are supposed to be open meetings. During the past few days, we have been refused entrance into a few meetings but many of us were able to attend SBSTA and contact group meetings yesterday. I feel like being at these meetings has allowed me to truly understand the COP negotiation process, the politics and side room discussions that must have taken place before the meeting, and how countries leverage their position to influence other countries. At the…

Frustrated by UN inaction on reducing emissions from deforestation, some countries refuse to stand by and watch our tropical forests disappear. Leading the way is Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg who announced his commitment to tropical forests, creating a $560 million fund dedicated to forest conservation.

Norway, a small country with no tropical forests, realizes that reducing emissions from deforestation is critical to any efforts to halt climate change and protect tropical forests. Its own efforts to curb emissions must extend beyond its borders and address the source of approximately 20% of global emissions. Norway has a GDP of $46,000 per person; its sizable commitment to tropical forest conservation amounts to $12 per person.

In contrast, the US Senate is sitting on a bill expected to face a…

Al Gore one said that “the outer edge of the politically possible falls short of the inner edge of the necessary.” It is certainly an apt quote for the negotiations so far at Bali, where there seems to be a growing disconnect between the rhetoric of preventing dangerous anthropogenic climate change, usually defined as more than 2 degrees C relative to pre-industrial levels, and the discussions over what steps to actually take. With the Bali conference lowering expectations by the day and putting more substantive decisions off to 2009 and beyond, it raises the question of how viable the 2 degrees target really is, and if it is time to undergo a fundamental reassessment of what type of targets may be viable. This is not to suggest that we should…

Finally, parties have reached an agreement on the general administration of the adaptation fund. On an interim basis, the World Bank and GEF take on the role of trustee and secretariat respectively while a 16 member board will be charged with the overall management. Annex 1, Non Annex 1, Least Developed Countries, Small Island States and the UN bodies are all represented in this arrangement. Whether this calls for celebration or not is debatable. The World Bank estimates that between US$ 10-40 billion is needed per year to ‘climate proof’ development in low-income countries compared to the 2% levy on CDM transactions (source of the adaptation fund) which is expected to generate only US$ 100-500 million through to 2012. Hmmmm…?…