Nusa Dua, Bali-Newly minted Nobel Peace laureate. Al Gore, received a hero's welcome from an audience of about 2,000 U.N. Climate Change Conference delegates, activists and journalists at the Bali Convention Center. As Gore strode to the lectern a Spanish woman documentarian standing next to me gushed, "He's like a pop star."
Significantly, Gore denounced the U.S. climate negotiating position. "I am going to speak an inconvenient truth," he said. "My own country, the United States, is principally responsible for obstructing progress here at Bali." This inconvenient truth garnered yelps and loud applause from the audience. Gore was referring to the fact that U.S. negotiators are resisting the setting of a target for future negotiations which aim to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 25 to 40 percent below their 1990 levels by 2020. The U.S. negotiators are also insisting the developing countries must also participate in any future arrangement to control GHG emissions.
Gore urged delegates and activists to push forward with the negotiations despite the United States. He assured them that the United States would be ready to join the process in two years time when the final negotiations for the follow-on treaty to the Kyoto Protocol takes place Copenhagen. As evidence that the U.S. was already on the move to address climate change, Gore cited new energy legislation in the House of Representatives, the mandatory greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions limits imposed by California and other states, and the fact that 150 of America's major business leaders are calling for mandatory limits.
Meanwhile late last night, U.S. climate negotiators offered a "compromise text" proposing that developed and developing countries be treated essentially in the same way, with countries taking on GHG reduction targets according to "their level of economic development and significance." Developing countries, such as China, India and Brazil, have so far steadfastly refused to commit to any reductions arguing that the rich countries must go first since their emissions have created the problem. But Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) may beg to differ with Gore about the prospects for U.S. approval of a climate deal in 2009. Kerry warned earlier in the week here in Bali that any post-2012 international treaty aimed at controlling GHG emissions will not be ratified by the U.S. Senate unless there is some kind of commitment on the part of developing countries.
One other note-the U.S. is planning on a major economies meeting to discuss how to handle GHG emissions in Hawaii this coming January. In a press conference last night, the European Union essentially threatened to boycott that meeting unless the U.S. comes around on the question of setting GHG reduction goals between 25 and 40 percent below their 1990 level. "It's true that if we would have a failure in Bali it would be meaningless to have a major economies' meeting" said, Humberto Rosa, the E.U.'s chief climate negotiator.
The conference is supposed to wrap up on Friday by 3 p.m. No one here believes that that deadline will be met. It looks like a long night ahead for negotiators, activists and journalists.