US wary of setting 'hard numbers' on greenhouse gas emissions at Bali talks

A A A

The high-level talks have begun. Ministers from some 120 countries were last night grappling with the detail of a road map to save the world from climate change. The UN secretary general flew into Bali yesterday to tell governments that "the eyes of the world are on them".

After a year in which the world has woken up to the threat of global warming, the UN climate talks are expected to deliver a response. But the prospects of a concrete outcome from Bali remain in doubt as negotiators struggle with serious divisions.

The bloc of countries including the UK, the EU and much of the developing world that want to arrest the build-up of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere have coalesced around the demand for a text that would call on industrialised countries to cut their emissions by up to 40 per cent. The opposing camp, led by the US delegation, backed by Canada, and less ardently Japan and Australia, want a two-year timetable for a successor to the Kyoto climate treaty but no mention of "hard numbers". A third and more reactionary bloc including Saudi Arabia want nothing more than talks about talks.

The consequences of failure could not be more stark. A wave of new reports at Bali have foretold of flooding, drought, deforestation and extinctions that await in a world more than 2C warmer than the one in which we live.

In the next 48 hours, something will have to give. Al Gore will address the high-level delegations today. Speaking in Sweden, the Nobel Peace Prize-winner said: "The position of the administration in the US right now appears to be to try to block any progress in Bali. I hope that will change."

The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, captured the mood in a comparatively emotional address: "We are a crossroads. One path leads towards a comprehensive climate deal. The other towards betrayal of our planet and of our children. Now we need the political leadership to provide the answer."

What the conference cannot and was never supposed to deliver is an immediate deal. The road map would replace what has been until now an international dialogue, with negotiations that have a specific end date two years from now. The UN's previous attempt to deal with climate change, 10 years ago, resulted in the Kyoto protocol under which the industrialised world committed itself to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 5 per cent below 1990 levels. The important parts of that treaty expire in 2012 and Bali is tasked with launching the process that will deliver a successor to Kyoto.

The road map analogy is intended to convey the need for a strict timetable. Instead it is in danger of conjuring up the hopelessness that has surrounded the Israel-Palestine question.

Hilary Benn, Britain's Environment Secretary, said: "The world is watching and expects us to come up with something. The mood and atmosphere is very strong, there is a desire to get an agreement and nobody who has been in the hall can be in any doubt of that."

The battleground for negotiators is a five-page text, which, if agreed tomorrow, would act as a detailed agenda leading to an international deal at a summit in Copenhagen in two years' time. As of last night, that text included scientists' calls for a 25-40 per cent reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases from industrialised nations by 2020.

The US delegation, led by Harlan Watson, has declared that America does not believe in negotiations which prejudge the outcome by including specific targets from the start. The official delegation has no one higher than an under-secretary of state, but that won't stop them wrecking the talks, said analysts. And Mr Ban appeared yesterday to admit that the US will get its way.

Leaders at Bali are desperate to dispel the impression that the negotiations are just more talks about talks. The bottom line for the leading delegations is an agreement to engage all 190 countries in a binding negotiation with a clear finishing date.

A Greenpeace political analyst said the process was "on the edge right now". "It's clear what the science demands and what the public demands, which is more than procedure," he said.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SECONDARY SUPPLY TEACHERS NEEDED IN AND AROUND SWALE

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Description Randstad Education i...

Geography Teacher, full time supply role, Thanet Academy

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: The School Randstad are proud to...

Science Teacher, full time supply role, Thanet Academy

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: The School Randstad are proud to...

English Teacher, full time supply role, Isle of Sheppey

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: The Job: Our client school is lo...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week