Dec 7, 2007
Bali must go beyond Kyoto
THE United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its final report last month, in time for the thousands of officials gathered in Bali for the UN climate conference to ponder the consequences of not acting to slow the emission of greenhouse gases. The consequences of even a modest warming of 1 to 3 deg C would be devastating, the panel said. The thousands in Bali should bear in mind that the IPCC's report, alarming though it was, was probably a little behind the curve. Because its findings had to be reviewed by delegates from 130 countries - and because its authors could not take into account the latest data - the report may well have understated somewhat the rapidity with which the globe may be warming. 'The world is already at or above the worst- case scenarios in terms of emissions,' said Mr Gernot Klepper of Germany's Kiel Institute for World Economy. 'In terms of emissions, we are moving past the most pessimistic estimates of the IPCC, and by some estimates we are above that red line.'
The Bali conference is unlikely to produce an updated and strengthened Kyoto Protocol. Come to think of it, the 1997 Kyoto climate conference that produced the Protocol did not produce a sea-change either. The United States has yet to ratify the treaty; carbon emissions have continued to rise in many of the industrialised countries that did ratify; and emissions have of course soared in many of the developing countries that did ratify but were not required to cut emissions. Since 1997, however, awareness has grown, together with the science, and there is a greater readiness among peoples, rich and poor, to act. What is lacking still is political will.
US President George W. Bush last week called for his country to 'lead the world to produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions', but indicated that he still opposed mandatory carbon emission limits. The US Senate is considering a Bill that would do just that - a 15 per cent cut by 2020 and 75 per cent by 2050. Such a US lead can help persuade countries such as China and India to also make firm commitments. But with or without the US, the rest of the world must act. The Bali conference can help to mobilise global public opinion. It will have succeeded if it gets most of the world behind a coherent agenda on what to do beyond Kyoto. For this reason, even Indonesia's pledge to preserve 4,300ha of its forests permanently, though welcome, has to be regarded as but a faltering first step. According to Greenpeace, Indonesia destroys 4,300ha of forests in half a day, every day. Everybody - Singaporeans, Indonesians, Americans, bar none - must do more.