Political temperature still rising

Despite the good news on technology transfer, the political storm over whether industrialised countries should specify a range for future emission cuts now only intensified as night fell in Bali on Thursday.

Talks were expected to continue until the early hours. At lunchtime, UNFCCC chief Yvo de Boer told journalists he was “very concerned”  about the pace of things.

One thorny issue that has re-emerged is exactly what role the US envisages for its major emitters’ initiative. This brings together the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases to discuss action to combat climate change. The White House has repeatedly insisted it is intended to feed into, not compete with, the UN process, but rumours are resurfacing here that this is not the case.

NGO Climate action network, which gives away three “fossils” every day to countries is believes are being obstructive, awarded them all to the US on Thursday. 

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Some suggested the US had been blocking conclusions on technology transfer because it wanted to save the topic for its next major emitter’s meeting on 30-31 January in Hawaii. How else could the US justify its supposedly difficult behaviour on a text promoting technology, which it claims is central to the fight again climate change?

The fact that a draft text was agreed late on Thursday appears to disprove this theory. Yet tensions persist.

German environment minister Sigmar Gabriel stirred things up by insisting the EU would boycott the major emitters’ process unless there is agreement in Bali that industrialised countries should cut emissions by 25-40 per cent by 2020.

Mr Gabriel has been particularly vocal in defence of this goal. Back home, Germany has just launched a – perfectly timed – ambitious national climate strategy with a reduction goal of 40 per cent.

Both the Portuguese EU presidency and EU environment commissioner Stavros Dimas appeared to provide full support for Mr Gabriel’s position. Yet out of the limelight, EU delegates are more nuanced. One said they would participate in the major emitters’ meeting “only if there is a Bali roadmap”. “This is not the same as saying if we don’t get the wording we want we won’t take part,” he followed.

One of the issues the US is reportedly arguing is that it would never get the proposed numerical reference through its Senate. Opposition within the Senate blocked ratification of the Kyoto protocol.

As the talks enter their final 24 hours tonight, it’s all becoming very tactical and increasingly dangerous to speculate what’s going on. There may still be surprises. As Indonesia said earlier today, negotiators always keep their cards close to their chest until the very end…

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