by Frank James
Fresh off his trip to Oslo, Norway to accept his Nobel Peace Prize for his role as the world's best-known Cassandra on global warming, former Vice President Al Gore was in Bali, Indonesia where he spoke to a United Nations climate conference today.
Gore took his nation, i.e. the Bush Administration, to task for being the leading obstacle to a new climate change agreement to supersede the Kyoto Protocol which is widely viewed as having been ineffective.
Here's an excerpt from the Associated Press's story:
The former vice president urged delegates to take urgent action to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, and told them that the next U.S. president will likely be more supportive of international caps on polluting gases.
"My own country, the United States, is principally responsible for obstructing progress here in Bali," said Gore, who flew to Bali from Oslo, Norway, where he received the Nobel Peace Prize for helping alert the world to the danger of climate change.
Asked about Gore's charge, Kristen Hellmer, a member of the American delegation in Bali, said: "The U.S. is being open and working very constructively with the other countries that are here. We are rolling our sleeves up and really working to come up with a global post-2012 framework."
The U.S., for its part, argues that it's other nations that are stalling matters by insisting on measurable emissions-reduction standards for each nation or caps. According to U.S. officials, everything should be on the table during negotiations now, not just emissions reductions.
Here's a large chunk of a Bloomberg News report which summarizes the situation well:
The U.S., the only developed nation not to ratify the emissions-limiting Kyoto Protocol, is the main opponent to a United Nations proposal to reduce greenhouse gases by 25 to 40 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels.
France and India are among countries condemning the U.S. for opposing emissions-reductions goals in a proposal aimed at guiding talks to replace the Kyoto treaty, which runs out in five years. They say the Bush administration threatens to stall progress on reaching an agreement by 2009. The U.S. argues all options to curb global warming should be considered and debate over targets should occur over the next two years, not now.
``Those who are suggesting that you can magically find agreement on a metric, when you are just starting negotiations, that in itself is a blocking effort,'' said James Connaughton, the chief environmental adviser to President George W. Bush, who has long opposed mandatory emissions cuts.
``We need to free up this conversation so we can have the deliberation to buy as much consensus and as much collective, constructive engagement as we can,'' Connaughton said today on the Indonesian island of Bali, where almost 200 countries are gathered for a UN meeting to begin talks for a new climate accord.
U.S. Blocking Progress
The European Union said earlier today that the U.S. is the main obstacle to reaching a ``Bali road map'' for future climate negotiations. The UN-sponsored talks are set to end tomorrow. The United Nations is pushing for an agreement on a new accord by 2009, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has said a ``breakthrough'' in Bali is critical if the world hopes to avoid the worst effects of rising temperatures and sea levels.
The Bush administration's lead climate negotiator, Paula Dobriansky, said today that the U.S. seeks to resolve disagreements in Bali.
``We are hopeful we can find a way to bridge remaining differences and reach consensus on a Bali road map,'' said Dobriansky, the undersecretary of state for democracy and global affairs and head of the U.S. climate delegation.
A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers also accused the Bush administration of hampering the talks.
Senators Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, and Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, are among 52 members of Congress sending Bush a letter urging him to support emissions- reductions goals.
57 Ways to Say `No'
``We write to express our strong disagreement with these positions and to urge you to direct the U.S. negotiating team to work together with other countries to complete a road map with a clear objective sufficient to combat global warming,'' according to the letter.
Many Democratic lawmakers are pessimistic that Bush will change his stance before his term ends in 2009.
``The president sent 57 administration representatives to Bali so he could have 57 ways to say `no' to the international community on solutions to global warming,'' said Democratic Representative Edward Markey, Chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. ``His continued strategy of denial and delay says to a very sick planet 'take two aspirin and call me when I leave office.'''
Opposed to Caps
Bush rejected the Kyoto treaty in 2001, arguing that mandatory emissions cuts would hurt the economy.
Since then, a UN panel of scientists has warned that global emissions must peak in 2015 and then begin declining to avoid the worst effects of global warming.
Bush remains opposed to an economywide cap on emissions from cars, power plants and other sources. Rather, he has supported voluntary measures to cut emissions, tighter fuel economy standards for vehicles and market-based incentives to curb global warming.
Meanwhile, an increasing number of U.S. states has moved to regulate carbon-dioxide pollution.
Action is happening at the federal level as well. Legislation that would set a cap on carbon passed through a Senate committee last week as the Bali talks were beginning.
Further, carmakers including General Motors Corp. yesterday lost a bid to halt California rules requiring cuts in carbon emissions that have been adopted by at least 11 other states.
``It shows how fast things are moving in the U.S., even while we're here in Bali there's another advance,'' David Doniger, policy director of the Climate Center at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in an interview today. ``But you would never know it listening to the Bush representatives here.''