Bali high drama -- then the conference finds its cool
15 December 2007, Bali Island, Indonesia (dpa) - When the doors of the conference hall finally opened after dramatic scenes rarely seen at a major international event, the air that wafted out was refreshingly cool. The organisers had clearly made sure that the air conditioning had been going at full blast - perhaps not sending quite the right message about energy reduction, but urgently needed to cool tempers. These had been brought to boiling point by several developments, including the Chinese demanding
15 December 2007
Bali Island, Indonesia (dpa) - When the doors of the conference hall finally opened after dramatic scenes rarely seen at a major international event, the air that wafted out was refreshingly cool.
The organisers had clearly made sure that the air conditioning had been going at full blast - perhaps not sending quite the right message about energy reduction, but urgently needed to cool tempers.
These had been brought to boiling point by several developments, including the Chinese demanding an apology from the conference secretariat, then the head of that secretariat Yvo de Boer walking off the stage in tears of frustration, then emotional cheering for a series of constructive calls from the conference floor - like that from the European Union - then a chorus of booing that greeted blocking actions like that of the United States.
The final minutes of this conference were of a kind rarely witnessed even by the most seasoned of participants at climate conferences, where things regularly get heated.
"It was one of the most dramatic rounds in the 15-year history of environment protection history," said climate expert Christoph Bals of the Germanwatch group, a man who has seen all the big conferences.
In two sessions separated by only a few hours to grab some precious sleep, the compromises, which had been so arduously hammered out threatened to collapse like a house of cards at the last moment.
It came when the forceful head of the US delegation, Paula Dobriansky, played a high-risk hand that was designed to out-trump a new Indian initiative.
In the end, she was out-trumped herself. No one went along with her initiative, with even the Japanese maintaining a vague stance. The United States was left completely isolated.
Then Dobriansky requested to speak again. The entire hall fell silent. The United States, she said, would not stand in the way of an overall agreement - and the cheering broke out.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon had earlier flown in specially to add his weight towards an agreement. When he entered the hall, delegates stood up and applauded - emotions beginning to rise.
"The world looks to us today," said Ban. He appealed to the global community's sense of responsibility towards the fate of the planet and the generations to come, and demanded a workable compromise.
"No delegation can get everything it wants," he said. The scene was set for a conference finale, which it would be hard to beat for drama.
The nitty-gritty of negotiations had been turbulent to the last, with rumours of threats and even blackmail.
The Europeans threatened to torpedo US President George W Bush's initiative for a separate conference of the main industrial nations should the Bali conference fail to produce a meaningful result.
That had an effect - the obstinate US delegation finally began to show flexibility. "Well - these are tactical games, but if we Europeans hadn't decided to turn on the pressure, we wouldn't have got this far," said one European Union delegate.
For the Europeans, who emerged with much credit in their role as leading environment protectionists, the result was satisfactory, even if they would have liked more, such as a clear indication that the industrial states would reduce their carbon emissions by a further 15 percent to 40 percent by 2020.
But the Americans were not playing along with this - so to get them on board, the Europeans agreed to the 40 percent figure getting relegated to an obscure footnote in the final agreement.
After all, everyone knew that after next year's US presidential election, there was a general hope that things would change on the climate front among Americans.
Subject: German news