An American spanner in the works

Peter Hardstaff reports on the anger felt at the Bali climate conference over the US stance on cutti

So here is the way things have played out in the last 24 hours.

At around midnight (Bali time) on Thursday 13th the US delegation dropped a negotiating bombshell. Text was submitted proposing to replace an agenda for talks on mandatory emissions cuts with essentially a process for agreeing voluntary emissions reductions. This sent the whole conference into a spin.

Governments and NGOs here went into overdrive and thankfully the US was pretty isolated. However, predictably with the United States, the submission of this last minute extreme proposal was simply an attempt to create extra leverage in another part of the talks.

The key sticking point all day Friday has been whether and how to reference the science of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and specifically the recommended target ranges for emissions reduction. The US was trying to trade-off agreeing to drop its extreme proposal with others agreeing to delete reference to the IPCC’s call to cut industrialised country emissions by between 25-40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020. The US claims that referencing this target range (which I should point out is a conservative one) ‘prejudges’ the negotiating process to come.

The US has also been trying to delete reference to differentiated action by so-called ‘Annex I’ countries (i.e. industrialised nations) and the developing countries. A fundamental principle of the Kyoto Protocol is treating developed and developing countries differently and it looks like the US is trying to subvert this.

After all the compromises that have been made by developing countries over the past two weeks, the mood here is one of disbelief, frustration and downright anger with the US delegation.

Predictably, the negotiations have gone completely underground in the past few hours. A relatively small group of negotiators is now involved in fighting it out. Some country delegates have already left but most are just sitting around chatting, e-mailing their families or booking island tours for the weekend or beyond. Their work is done and it’s now down to a select few to try to thrash out a deal. All press conferences have been cancelled as no delegation wants to say anything publicly that could upset an already very tense situation.

It is now 5.30 pm as I write this and chances are the talks will go through the night which is not good news for the many people who are already strung out and sleep deprived. All most of us can do now is wait and cross our fingers.