UN Climate Change Conference - Bali KKL-JNF delegates summarize

The Bali conference inaugurated the UN's consolidation pact after the Kyoto Protocol that is expected to go into practice in 2013.

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Condensed from report of Or Karassin, Adv. KKL-JNF Board of Directors and Head of KKL-JNF's Delegation to the Conference The Climate Change Conference in Bali was the 13th gathering of the more than 180 nations that have signed the UN's Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as well those that signed the Kyoto Protocol (36 developed countries excluding Israel). The Bali conference inaugurated the UN's consolidation pact after the Kyoto Protocol that is expected to go into practice in 2013. The UN's two-year work plan in preparation for the new protocol, intends the parties to sign at the 15th Conference - to be held in Copenhagen in 2009. The negotiations that began in Bali were aimed at even more ambitious targets for reducing hothouse gas emissions than were set by the Kyoto Protocol - an average reduction of 5.2% from the basic emission line set in 1990 and applying only to the developed countries. The conference revealed sharp rifts between the USA and Europe; among the developed countries and between the quickly-developing nations, mainly China, India and Brazil. While the European block wanted to settle the parameters for reduction of emissions by 25%-40% by the year 2020 for developed countries the Americans refused to commit themselves to reduce emissions by particular extent. They persisted in their demand that other developing countries, in particular the big polluters, mainly China and India, also make a commitment to reduce emissions, which they have never done before. The Conference's principal outcome - the "Road Map" - is a victory for the American stance. The final document does not specify target amounts for reduction of emissions therefore a future agreement will have to be consolidated in which the developed countries will also commit to reduce their emissions. An additional change resulting from the text of the Road Map is that all developed countries - and not just those already committed who signed the Kyoto Protocol - will be obligated to reduce emissions. A possible significance of this overall decision is that from the year 2013 Israel too, will be obligated to reduce emission of hothouse gases. In addition to the official discussions at the Conference, a wide variety of side events were organized, in several of which KKL-JNF was represented. These side events were in fact short seminars on various topics, initiated and organized by academic institutions, international organizations, governments, and international and regional NGOs. In parallel with the conference, a Forest Week was held, reaching its climax on Forest Day, a day of events organized by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). KKL-JNF delegates participated in Conference discussions, displayed special posters in the framework of the Forest Day events and held several meetings to examine the possibility of carrying out a project on afforestation in arid regions in developing countries, with partial funding from the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). In one of these meetings, Ibrahim Thaiw, Director of the Division of Environmental Policy Implementation of UNEP, stated that "Israel is the best example of a country that has managed to live with the desert. It is a noble gesture that you are willing to share your knowledge with other countries." Among the Conclusions from the Conference: KKL-JNF has knowledge, ability and unique experience of afforestation in arid regions. Many of the world's countries need this knowledge in the face of their desertification processes, caused by global warming. Israel's knowledge and capabilities in this sphere are known and esteemed. KKL-JNF can contribute to the international process through its familiarity with forests in arid regions, and there are international bodies such as donor institutions, governments, UN bodies and NGOs with whom cooperation can finance and implement forest projects in desert regions. It is known that climate change will affect our region in a way that will cause a drop in rainfall, both in overall quantity and frequency. KKL-JNF has to examine the possible effects of our regional climate change on the forests and has to prepare accordingly. The human race's ability and determination to fight climate change is in the balance - and has never before been an issue of more controversy. Will the Bali Conference be remembered as an opening event in the battle for the future existence of our planet? Five reasons for pessimism: 1.In spite of the fact that the effects of climate change are already recognized in many countries, the world is not rushing to take resolute steps to reduce the danger. In 2006 Kenya suffered from a drought that trapped 2.5 million human beings in starvation and poverty. Inhabitants of the Bengal Bay area in Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world, have been suffering for years from prolonged drought, floods and cyclones, resulting in severe famine and forcing millions of people to abandon their homes. 2.No practical results have yet been achieved, not even of the modest targets set by the Kyoto Protocol. In fact, there has been a rise of 20% in warming emissions since 1997. At the present moment the developed countries significantly exceed the reduction extents set for them in the Kyoto Protocol. In spite of scientific certainty and the consensus concerning the conclusions reached by the UN's scientific panel, the world's leaders are not displaying the political determination required for bringing about the 5% gradual reduction in carbon emissions by 2008 that were decided upon in 1990. 3.The USA, the largest economic power in the world, is also the "pollution champion", responsible for 22% of the carbon emissions in the world. It still refuses to join the Kyoto Protocol and to reduce its emissions. A research group from elite Harvard University that has influence on the present government, reinforces the reasons for worry. This group, which presented its findings at the conference, recommends that because of economic considerations the American government should not accept the limitations determined by the international community. 4.China, which every week builds at least one more power station, is expected to overtake the US in its amount of its emissions this year or next. China's representatives at the Conference announced that their country is not ready to undertake any commitment to limit emissions until the year 2020. According to the International Energy Agency, without the involvement of countries with a large transition economy, such as China, India, Brazil and South Africa, there is no chance that the developed countries - which by 2020 will constitute only 40% of the global pollution problem - will solve it alone. 5.The world's forests are under fierce attack. The cutting down of forests continues in many nations, constituting a severe injury to the world's "health." In Indonesia alone, which ranks eighth in the world in the extent of its forests, the tropical forest area has been reduced by over 40%. Between 1950 and 1997, over 17 billion acres (68 billion dunam) of forest have been cut down. Five reasons for optimism: 1.The joint draft declaration distributed by the developed countries' work group states that starting from the year 2013, at the end of the commitment period in the Kyoto Pact; the developed countries will commit themselves to an additional, significant obligation. This is expected to result in a 25% - 40% reduction in carbon emissions, in relation to their level in 1990. This is a meaningful step in comparison with their present Kyoto commitment, which is for a 5% reduction only. 2.In a speech at the Conference, former presidential candidate for the Democrats, Senator John Kerry, said that all Democrats now running for the presidency have declared that the USA will be ready to commit to the obligations incorporated in the Kyoto Pact - in contrast to the refusal of the present Republican administration. In his opinion, whoever is picked as the Democratic candidate this year will work energetically to renew agreements that include significant emission limitations, starting from 2013. 3.The scientific knowledge and technical ability required to combat global warming are rapidly increasing and are available to all countries. Nobuo Tanaka, Executive Director of the International Energy Authority, says that the technologies required for a dramatic reduction in hothouse gases are already available, and most of them are economically effective, meaning that they will not cause any long-term damage to economic growth. He maintains that efficiency in the production of energy, for both industrial and domestic use, can provide 35% to 40% of the solution. 4.Many cities around the world are now environmental pioneers, setting ambitious goals for themselves. For example, London has set itself the target of a 60% reduction in pollution by 2025, and Los Angeles has committed to a 25% drop by 2030. 5.Organized and voluntary carbon trading between countries reflects the enormous growth in interest in the issue, and provides funding for many projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions - some of them in developed nations. The scope of this trade rose by more than $100 million in 2000, reaching an estimated $10 billion in 2005, according to data published by the World Bank. Yvo de Boer, chief of the UN's climate agency, in an address at the Conference, expressed the hope that the negotiations to consolidate an international agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol will not be something that starts with great promises and good intentions only to end up with weak and feeble action. For the sake of the planet and of humankind, we share that hope. 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