December 17th, 2007 | Published in Google.org
It came down to the 11th hour, and then dragged on for an extra day -- but after two weeks of negotiations, delegates at the UN climate change conference in Bali settled on a plan for reaching a new international agreement to fight climate change. The Bali action plan provides a roadmap for negotiating an expanded and strengthened international emissions reduction pact by the end of 2009.
The deal leaves many contentious issues unresolved. It does not include any explicit emissions reductions goals or targets; in fact the scientific recommendations on the emissions reductions needed to halt climate change are relegated to a footnote. The plan simply lays out a process to negotiate the emissions targets to succeed the limits set by Kyoto Protocol, which expire in 2012. It also provides a platform to begin talks to address growing concerns about adaption, deforestation and facilitating transfer of clean technologies to developing countries.
At the outset of this conference, we noted that the scale and complexity of the climate crisis demands collective action by the world's governments. The Bali roadmap, while leaving much to be desired, represents an important step in this process. All the parties are still at the table and are now committed to spending the next two years crafting a more comprehensive global solution to fighting climate change. Many were hopeful that the outcome of the U.S. Presidential election in 2008 will help breathe new life into this process, regardless of whether the President-elect is a Republican or Democrat.
But given how difficult it was to reach an agreement in Bali and how acrimonious the negotiations were, the rest of us can't afford to wait for the world to negotiate a new climate agreement. We need to take action now. Fortunately, many people around the world are doing just that. The numerous panels and side events at Bali were filled with examples of concrete actions people are taking now to build a cleaner future. We wrote on how the world's local governments are launching their own initiatives to fight global warming and how others are working to ensure that any solutions take into account equity and justice considerations. Another hot topic of conversation here was the growing efforts of many companies to reduce their carbon footprints and take a leadership role in promoting smart energy policies.
The flurry of activity among all of these groups is encouraging. The result at Bali and the tough road ahead suggests that the international treaty process will not be sufficient to confront this challenge with the speed and scope with which it demands, at least in the short term. To stop climate change, we all must take responsibility and act, whether by making choices to reduce our personal carbon footprint, engaging with family and friends in our communities, or elevating the climate crisis to the top of the political agenda. For the Google.org team, it means a renewed commitment to putting our own resources to work.