The deal

In the context of current global politics, what has been achieved here is probably as good as could

So there was me thinking I might get some time to rest in Bali before flying home but it’s been another full day at the Convention Centre.

Negotiations continued through the night on the key remaining sticking points: how to reference the science and targets and whether/how to differentiate between developed and developing countries. This morning a new draft proposal was tabled but on the latter issue, India asked for more time to negotiate. Several hours later, and after a certain amount of semi-organised chaos, a new compromise was reached.

It’s not easy to explain the full story, and also convey the tense and emotional atmosphere in the huge plenary hall, but basically the group of developing countries (G77) proposed an amendment, which was supported by the EU (to much applause). The US then objected to the amendment. What followed was a series of statements from countries across the world with varying degrees of condemnation of the US position. And with the World’s media watching, the United States dropped its objection.

So high drama on the last day (+1). The final outcome is what is being called the ‘Bali Road-Map’; an agenda for the next two years of negotiations. As I have said before, this seems dull and unimportant but believe me it is a critical staging post in the international process and every single word has been pored over and many have been fought over.

I won’t go into great detail on the text but I think there are two ways of looking at the final deal. First, in the context of what is actually needed to address the problem of climate change, the negotiations here have been some way off the mark, largely due to the intransigence at various times and on various issues of the US, Canada, Japan and Russia.

Second, in the context of current global politics, what has been achieved here is probably as good as could be expected in light of the Bush Administration’s history of outright hostility to climate science and to binding international action, particularly in the UN. Despite this hostility, the UN process is still alive and kicking and in my opinion it is the only way we can get governments from across the world to take cooperative action on such a complex interaction of issues.

So, the door is still open for a progressive outcome by the time the talks are supposed to conclude in 2009. But the door has certainly not been closed to a minimalist fudge. The critical question over the coming months and years is about the extent to which politics changes in key countries like the USA and also the extent to which governments like our own put in place the policies necessary to cut the carbon out of our economy.

WDM said at the very outset that the subtext of this negotiation was all about trade and competitiveness given the massive trade deficit the US has with China. And I think this has proved to be the case. The US in particular has been petrified of agreeing to anything that is seen back in the States as being a commitment to action by the US that is much greater than the Chinese. If you are interested, take a look at WDM’s report: Blame it on China? Which explores the international politics of climate change.

On a final note, all I can say is that I feel utterly drained. Sometimes I have wondered what the hell I’m achieving by being here. On a few occasions I’ve felt like I have made a small contribution. On the plus side, I leave here with a strong sense that there is a growing movement of people from all parts of the world seeking real and lasting solutions. Being concerned about climate change is not just the preserve of middle class westerners. The strongest advocates for action are those in developing countries living at the sharp end of its impacts, and the impacts of the ‘quack remedies’ like massive palm oil plantations for bio-diesel. The voices of these people need to be heard.

Please check out WDM’s web site over the coming weeks and months as we upload some of the interviews with developing country activists that I have been able to do here.

Anyway, I hope that you (all three of you) have found the past two weeks of blogging informative, and perhaps at times thought provoking and every now and then entertaining. Maybe you’ll hear from me, or perhaps someone else at WDM, next time governments from across the globe gather together for a big showdown.

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An English hero for the ages: Ian Botham at 60

Botham blends his sportsmanship and deep-seated passion for cricket with a lust for life.

Begging W H Auden’s pardon, it is possible both to honour and to value the vertical man, and in the case of Ian Botham, who turned 60 on 24 November, it is our bounden duty. No sportsman has given Britons so much to enjoy in the past half-century and no sportsman is loved more. Two decades after he retired from first-class cricket, his reputation as one of life’s champions remains unassailable.

No mere cricketer is he, either. Botham is a philanthropist, having raised more than £12m for various charities, notably Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research. In December, 30 years after his first walk from John o’Groats to Land’s End, he will set off again, in South Africa, where England are on tour. And he really does walk, too, not amble. As somebody who accompanied him on one of his dozen walks said: “You can’t keep up with him. The man is a phenomenon.”

Of all postwar sportsmen, only Bobby Charlton and, at a pinch, Henry Cooper come close to matching Botham’s enduring popularity. But Charlton, a shy man who was scarred by the Munich plane crash of 1958 (and may never have recovered from its emotional effects), has never comfortably occupied a public stage; and Cooper, being a boxer, had a solitary role. Botham, by contrast, spoke for England. Whenever he picked up his bat, or had a ball in his hand, he left spectators in no doubt.

Others have also spoken for England. Bobby Moore and Martin Johnson, captains respectively of England’s World Cup-winning football and rugby teams, were great players but did not reach out to people as naturally as Botham. Nick Faldo, Lester Piggott, Sebastian Coe and, to bring us up to date, Lewis Hamilton have beaten the best in the world, but they lacked those qualities that Botham displayed so freely. That is not to mark them down. They were, and are, champions. But Botham was born under a different star.

It was John Arlott, the great cricket commentator, who first spotted his uniqueness. Covering a match at Taunton in 1974, he asked the young colt to carry his bags up the rickety staircase to the press box, where Arlott, wearing his oenophile’s hat, pulled out a bottle of red wine and invited Botham to drink. Forty years later Botham is a discriminating wine drinker – and maker. Along with his friend and fellow England great Bob Willis, and their Australian wine­making pal Geoff Merrill, he has put his name to a notable Shiraz, “BMW”.

Arlott, with his nose for talent and good company, saw something in the young Botham that Brian Close, his captain at Somerset, was beginning to bring out. Later, Mike Brearley, as England captain, drew out something even more remarkable. As Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote, you’ve got to be carefully taught. And Botham, a fine team man as well as a supreme individual performer, has never withheld praise from those who enabled him to find his voice.

If sport reveals character, then cricket is the game that reveals it most clearly. In no other sport is the individual performance rooted so firmly in a team context. Every over brings a contest of skill and intelligence between batsman and bowler but only a team can win the match. “A cricketer,” as Arlott said, “is showing you something of himself all the time.”

Cricket also reveals national character more than any other sport. Football may be the most popular game in the world but cricket, and cricketers, tell us far more about England and Englishness. It is instructive, in this regard, to hear what Philippe Auclair, a French journalist and author long resident in London, has to say about Botham: “He is essentially an 18th-century Englishman.” In one! It’s not difficult to sense a kinship with Tom Jones, Fielding’s embodiment of 18th-century life, who began his journey, as readers may recall, in Somerset.

A country boy who played for Worcestershire after leaving Somerset, and who lives by choice in North Yorkshire, Botham is an old-fashioned Englishman. Although nobody has yet found him listening to the parson’s sermon, he is conservative with a small and upper-case C, a robust monarchist, handy with rod and gun, and happiest with a beaker in front of him. He represents (though he would never claim to be a representative) all those people who understand instinctively what England means, not in a narrow way, but through something that is in the blood.

Above all, he will be remembered for ever as the hero of 1981. Even now it takes some believing that Botham bowled and batted with such striking success that the Australians, who were one up after two Tests, were crushed. Some of us who were actually at Headingley for the famous third Test – thousands who claim to have been there were not – recall the odds of 500-1 on an England victory going up on the electronic scoreboard that Saturday evening.

Botham made 149 not out as England, following on, beat the Aussies by 18 runs. For three hours the country seemed to stop. In the next Test, at Edgbaston, Botham took five wickets for one run as Australia fell under his spell. Then, at Old Trafford, on a dank Saturday afternoon, he played the most memorable innings of his life and one of the greatest innings ever played by an Englishman: 118 magnificent, joyful runs. Joy: that’s the word. Botham brought joy into people’s lives.

Yet it was the final Test at the Oval, which ended in a draw, that brought from him a performance no less remarkable than those from before. He bowled 89 overs in that match, flat out, continuing to run in when others withdrew with injury. That was the team man coming to the fore. Little wonder his comrades thought the world of him.

Modest, loyal, respectful to opponents, grateful to all who have lent him a hand, and supported throughout a turbulent life by Kath, his rock of a wife, and their three children, this is a cricketing hero to rank with W G Grace, Jack Hobbs, Wally Hammond and Fred Trueman. A feature in the lives of all who saw him, and a very English hero. 

This article first appeared in the 26 November 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Terror vs the State