Let’s talk

Everybody is talking about climate change these days. My grandmother was saying something about everyone having to switch all their lights off on the phone to me yesterday. “Why?” I asked, only half-listening. “You know, climate change,” she replied.

As the media has taken climate change and thrust it into our lives, it has become the topic of conversation not only for coffee tables but also for policymakers and businessmen. The latest scientific report leaves no room for doubt: the world is headed for catastrophe if we do not start doing something about it, now.

Yesterday marked the start of a two-week marathon of UN talks on climate change to do just that. Up to 15,000 people are estimated to be flocking to the island resort of Bali, Indonesia, to discuss a successor to the Kyoto protocol. The goal is to agree to start talking, when to finish taking, and what to talk about.

I will be flying out to Bali on Saturday (offset provider yet to be determined) to get a handle on this conversation. Well, myriad of conversations. Because policymakers, business and civil society will all be there to present their case. My inbox count has doubled in the run-up to Bali.

What can we expect? On the big things, it would be very surprising if there was no agreement to start talks or to aim to finish them by 2009. The problem is their content. It looks like the UN has taken the pragmatic decision to side-step the controversial issue of targets for now however, and to focus on tools instead.

When everyone agrees what’s in the toolbox, then we can talk about what those tools can achieve, UNFCCC chief Yvo de Boer said recently. One major tool that will dominate discussions is the carbon market. The US may insist it doesn’t like it, but it’s worth billions and in no hurry to go away.

Almost everyone agrees that any post-2012 agreement must include China and the US. Of course the danger of keeping it all as vague as possible to get everyone on board is that in the end we may settle on very little. But that shouldn’t concern us, yet. For now, the focus must be on getting a conversation going.

We’ll talk again next week.

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