(42) Global Warming

UN 2007 Bali Climate Change Conference - Feinstein on final agreement (Video)

HISTORY OF INTERNATIONAL NEGOTIATIONS - From COP 6 The Hague, The Netherlands November 13 - 24, 2000 TO COP 21 Paris November 30 - December 12, 2015

Bali Climate Change Conference - December 2007



In December 2007, the member nations of the United Nations met to formulate a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to continue commitments made by participants at the Kyoto conference in 1997. The Kyoto Protocol had committed 36 industrialized nations to reduce greenhouse emissions by an average of 5 percent between 2008 and 2012.

Based on modeling results, the IPCC proposed a worldwide stabilization level of 445 part per million carbon dioxide to prevent the earth’s temperature from rising more than 2°C (3.6°F) above pre-industrial levels. This would enable the world to avoid the most severe impacts of global warming such as drought, failed crops, increased hunger, inundation of small island countries, and widespread extinction of species. To achieve this stabilization level, the IPCC scientists and climate modelers proposed a worldwide reduction in greenhouse gases in the range of 25-40 percent by 2020.


The Bali conference provided an opportunity for countries around the world to address obstacles that previously stood in the way of greater cooperation in fighting global warming. Some of the developing countries, particularly China, wanted to see the United States, which at the start of the conference was the only industrialized country not to have signed the Kyoto treaty, to take a greater responsibility for reducing global carbon dioxide levels. Much of the carbon dioxide that had been released into the atmosphere so far has contributed primarily to the prosperity and high standard of living in the United States which stands out as having one of the higher per capita generations of carbon dioxide in the world.

The United States was concerned that actions it was being asked to take to reduce carbon dioxide emissions would slow its economic growth. The United States was also concerned that if it alone cut greenhouse gases, that effort would not be effective without similar actions in the rapidly developing countries. The developing countries-especially those with the largest populations, most notably China and India-are currently experiencing rapid economic growth which is highly dependent upon continued combustion of coal. Countries striving to achieve a higher standard of living for their people are reluctant to take on the added burden of cutting greenhouse emissions without their counterparts in industrialized countries accepting a comparable role.

Results Consensus

After marathon negotiations that appeared on the brink of collapse several times an overall consensus was reached. The plan establishes in principle that “deep cuts in global emissions will be required” and provides a timetable for two years of talks to provide the first formal addendum to the 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change treaty since the Kyoto Protocol 10 years ago.

At Bali, the world’s nations including the United States agreed to negotiate on a deal to tackle climate change. Developing nations-particularly growing economies like China and India-committed to “measurable, reportable, and verifiable, nationally appropriate mitigation actions.”

The Bali agreement initiated a two-year United Nations-sponsored process, intended to produce a binding international climate pact by the end of 2009. This could change the way industrialized and emerging nations work together to preserve a rapidly warming Earth. However, the agreement in Bali postponed many tough decisions and stopped short of the more aggressive and specific emission reduction targets advocated by the European Union and others. There is also no language making specific emission reductions mandatory. The conference ended in the adoption of the Bali roadmap, which sets a course for a new negotiating process to be concluded by 2009 leading to a post-2012 international agreement on climate change.


The Bali conference included provisions for international projects to limit deforestation and to restore forests where they had previously been destroyed. This can enable deforestation projects to attract money from private investors interested in storing up credits that can be redeemed at a higher price in future. Credits from avoided deforestation will be stored up in the same way as credits from renewable energy projects as part of the global market in carbon. Part of the financing would come from developed countries through aid. Additional financing would come from carbon credits traded under the Kyoto pact. Rain forest destruction is a major source of carbon dioxide and living rain forests play an important role in absorbing the gas. For this to be meaningful, it will be necessary to insure that projects will help reduce overall emissions instead of just push more deforestation elsewhere.

Adaptation Fund

One specific accomplishment in Bali was to implement the climate change adaptation fund. This fund, which was an important feature of the Kyoto Protocol, intended to help developing nations to adapt to the more-frequent, more-intense droughts, increasingly severe storms, and sea-level rise, that scientists project will occur as the planet’s atmosphere warms. The climate change adaptation fund will also be collected from a carbon trading mechanism that gives more affluent countries carbon credits that they can offset against their emissions targets, if they agree to invest in projects for clean energy in the less developed countries.

Technology Transfer/Taking the Next Step

A key concern of developing countries was whether they could count on technical assistance from the industrialized countries in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This may, for the fi rst time, include carbon capture and storage in underground geologic formations. At the Bali conference, agreement in principle was made to find ways to make technology available to reduce greenhouse gas emission. A key accomplishment of the conference was to have established commitments from both industrialized and developing countries to work cooperatively to solve a common problem with details to be worked out at the meeting in Copenhagen in late 2009. The new plan is intended to take effect after 2012. Individuals can support regional and national efforts to capture carbon dioxide and develop non-greenhouse gas–producing fuels. For many people, this may mean simply being willing to pay more for cleaner electricity and supporting government efforts to make that happen.

Emissions Trading-Cap and Trade

Emissions trading are an approach that governments use to reduce pollutants, including greenhouse gases, to certain target levels. Incentives are provided to companies or organizations to reduce the release of these gases. The government sets a cap or limit on the amount of the greenhouse gas that can be released. If a company operates below the established cap, it has a credit that it can then trade or sell to another company that is having greater difficulties meeting the cap. Enforcement of the plan often involves penalties for companies that do not meet their caps and benefits for those that do. The intent of emissions trading is to provide the greatest fl exibility for companies to reach overall emissions targets with minimal impact on business. It encourages and rewards a greater contribution from organizations most able to implement changes.

A total of 27 countries in the European Union are working toward meeting their Kyoto Protocol commitments through the use of a carbon trading system. The treaty was signed in 1997 and went into effect in 2005. Under the treaty, ratifying nations that emit less than their assigned quota of greenhouse gases are able to sell credits to other countries that emit more greenhouse gases than their cap. The challenge is enforcement of the caps and verifying actual emissions, which has a cost impact.

The United States implemented an emissions trading system to enable industries to comply with the 1990 Clean Air Act, which was written to limit sulfur dioxide, a pollutant that causes acid rain. The program is intended to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by 50 percent by the end of this decade. Regional agreements, such as by the Western Governors’ Association, are currently being established to set up a cap and trade approach to carbon dioxide emissions.

The cap and trade approach has its supporters and detractors. Supporters see it as a reasonable balance that achieves emissions goals and minimizes the impact on business. Critics see it as too difficult to enforce and that efforts to track carbon credits will be prone to procrastination and abuse. David Crane, the CEO of NRG, Inc said that “coal-fi red generation is very profitable and part of that is obviously because carbon emissions from coal are still free. You can emit them in the atmosphere with no cost.” If releasing greenhouse gases to the atmosphere is no longer free but has a cost associated with it, alternative forms of energy will rapidly become more competitive. According to the IPCC, it may be necessary to increase the cost to emit a ton of carbon dioxide (or equivalent, CO2,eq) to between $20 and $80 (US currency) in order to stabilize carbon dioxide levels at around 550 ppm by 2100.

Some people are concerned that the response to global warming may become an impediment to economic progress. There will be costs associated with reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but there are also costs that could result from inaction. The response to the problems of global warming and climate change can present new economic opportunities. Here are some of them:

• Developing next-generation (plug-in hybrid) cars

• Developing components for those cars (especially higher-energy-density batteries)

• Improving mass transit

• Producing and installing energy-conservation products (for new houses and to retrofit existing houses)

• Optimizing appliance efficiency

• Design and operation of low-carbon coal power (coal companies may benefit from increased use of coal)

• Design and operation of carbon storage (oil, coal, and oil infrastructure companies may play a role in developing sequestration facilities)

• Scientific, administrative, and legal processing of emissions trading programs

• Development and implementation of grid-connected wind and solar electricity generation

Adaptation-Global Band-Aids

Regardless of the level at which the world stabilizes greenhouse gas emissions, it is inevitable, according to the IPCC, that there will be additional warming. The present load of human-added greenhouse gases has created a commitment to at least some amount of continued warming. The earth’s climate system has a lot of inertia. Where climate change cannot be avoided, adaptation may become necessary. Two examples of adaptation include:

Venice. The mean sea level has risen 7.5 cm (3 inches) since 1897 which combined with a sinking of the land masses has increased the incidence of flooding in that city. In 1990, flood water spread across St. Marks Square roughly 7 times each year. Now the flooding occurs nearly 100 times each year threatening famous architectural landmarks. As the sea level rises, the city has become more vulnerable to flooding from storm surges. A seawall built in the fourteenth century to protect Venice is now routinely breached. Currently Venice is constructing a series of 79 huge hinged gates to separate Venice from the Adriatic Sea and protect it against storm surges. Thames River Barrier. A set of mobile barriers were erected in the Thames River to prevent the recurrence of devastating flooding in 1953. A 3.2 m (10.5 ft) storm surge flooded parts of the UK and caused more than 300 deaths. From 1983 to 1995 there were on average1.2 closures per year. From 1996 to 2007, as a result of higher sea level, there were 6.5 closures per year.

Methods of adaptation will depend on the severity of the climate changes and the actual conditions in the area. Some adaptation methods that may need to be implemented include

• Constructing new levees and extending existing levees

• Changing patterns of land use, such as restricting use of areas that may become prone to flooding

• Replacing crops with those better suited to new climate conditions

• Abandoning farmland in regions subject to prolonged droughts or flooding

• Developing crop varieties with greater drought tolerance

• Increased irrigation in areas subject to droughts

• Increasing rainwater storage where periods of flooding and drought are factors

• Increasing the capacity of storm water systems

• Providing alternative habitats for the most threatened species

• Building concrete dams for glacial lakes in danger of bursting (which also may provide hydroelectric power)

• Adaptation of the agricultural marketplace in regions where increased crop yields are anticipated as a result of global warming (a positive consequence)

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