Beyond Kyoto in Bali

WHAT will happen after 2012? That is the question being asked at the tourism haven of Bali, Indonesia, where delegates from over 180 nations have converged for a two-week UN session on climate change. What's expected is a “roadmap for a future international agreement on enhanced global action to fight climate change”, that will replace the less-than-fruitful Kyoto Protocol.

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Published: Fri 7 Dec 2007, 9:51 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 12:52 AM

The emerging environmental scenario is worrisome indeed. Global warming is progressively upsetting normal life. In fact, climate change is reckoned a more serious threat to human existence than, say, global terrorism. As scientists reckon, reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is the way to ensure that millions of people will not be at risk from extreme weather conditions or rising sea levels - a scenario that might lead to several inhabited islands getting submerged in the sea. Bali, for instance. Scientists have set a target of a 50 per cent cut in emissions by the middle of the century; and, if this is to be achieved, what is needed now is this: deep cuts.

On one side, the problem is rapid industrialisation and, on the other, there is the issue of deforestation — the two aspects hastening climate change. According to UN estimates, deforestation is occurring at a rate of 13 million hectares a year, accounting for 20 per cent of the global greenhouse gas emissions. Forest systems, as is well-known, play a major role in tackling climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. A way out, thus, is the speeding up of the process of reforestation.

The main goal of the Bali meet is three-fold. As explained by the UN, they are: launching negotiations on a climate change deal post 2012; setting the agenda for these negotiations, and, finally, reaching an agreement on when these negotiations will have to be concluded. Without doubt, major greenhouse gas emitting nations like the United States, India, China and Brazil will battle things out before any major decisions emerge. While all of them are industrially advancing, they are not willing to yield ground or mend ways in the larger global interests. For, it would mean a slow-down in their industrial hyperactivity. The question they ask is, shouldn't they care for themselves more than they care for the world? How will they exist if the world fails to exist?

Unfortunately, however, the US that should lead from the front in such global campaigns has, instead, cut a sorry figure in the past seven years of the Bush administration. How else will one explain the administration's steadfast refusal to back the Kyoto Protocol, crafted among others by the then US Vice-President Al Gore at a global environment forum? Bush's argument against the protocol was that it unfairly omitted 2012 emissions goals for developing nations, and would damage the US economy, and more importantly, the Texan economy. The US stand led to accusations that it is refusing to be one with the world.

Arguments apart, it is hoped that the agreement in the making will not meet with the fate of the Kyoto Protocol, that has at best been a limited success. Now, and in future, when it comes to environment protection, global interests must be a matter of first priority to all nations. The Bali meet should show the way.

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