Report - Harvard Project on Climate Agreements, Belfer Center

Bali Climate Change Conference: Key Takeaways

| December 18, 2007

Key Takeaways from Bali

The conference was a "qualified success."

  • Before Bali, we observed that it will be good news if there's no bad news coming out of the negotiations.  This was achieved, and then some.
  • For the Bali Roadmap, countries agreed to continue working together, and they have agreed on certain measures.
    • The ultimate destination was not decided.  That was not feasible and was not necessary.
    • But the direction was decided and the vehicle for travel was augmented in positive ways
  • It's important that both the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change process (the process that led to the original Kyoto Protocol) and President Bush's Big Economies process continue. The White House will host the largest emitters from the industrialized and developing world, accounting for 85 to 90 percent of emissions, in Hawaii (January 2008).
    • This Big Economies process reflects an evolution of an idea shared by several world leaders.  Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin called for leaders of 20 developed and developing countries to address climate change in 2004 and subsequently UK Prime Minister Tony Blair formally invited the five largest developing countries to discuss climate and development through the G8+5 process.
    • This dual track makes sense for the time being, as it allows those countries that are the biggest part of the problem to negotiate more intensively on solutions.
  • Important takeaways from the "Bali Action Plan"
    • Specified intent to complete negotiations on post-2012 plan by the end of 2009. 
    • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's fourth assessment report was recognized as the authoritative report on the science of climate change.
    • A shared vision for long-term action, including a long-term emission reduction goal, will be addressed through the Bali action plan process.
    • All developed countries are expected to undertake mitigation commitments or actions, including quantified emission targets.
    • Developing countries, for the first time, offered to include "mitigation actions" in the next international agreement.  It is not clear yet what these plans of action will be, and to what extent they will depend upon prior actions in the industrialized world, but this is a step in the right direction.
    • Work will commence on methods to demonstrate emissions reductions from retarded deforestation and design policy incentives for reducing emissions from deforestation and land degradation.  (Deforestation — from a range of countries, including Brazil and the Congo — accounts for roughly 20 percent of greenhouse emissions.)
    • Adaptation is now getting much more attention. The Bali plan calls for efforts to assess the vulnerability of low-income countries, develop capacity, promote risk management and risk reduction efforts, and facilitate resilience through economic diversification.
    • Work will commence on a program for technology transfer to developing countries as well as cooperation on the research and development of new climate-friendly technologies.
  • Other important decisions made at the Bali conference
    • Adaptation funding: The Bali conference recognized a funding mechanism for adaptation, which could generate up to $300 million over 2008–2012. This is set up under the Global Environment Facility by a 2 percent levy on the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism, whereby industrialized countries invest in projects that reduce emissions in developing countries as an alternative to more expensive emission reductions in their own countries. The magnitude of the funds for adaptation is insufficient, but it’s a start.
    • The Bali conference doubled the maximum size of small-scale reforestation projects allowed under the Clean Development Mechanism.
    • Carbon capture & storage: Parties agreed for first time to begin work on this, set up work plan for 2008.

Bali has now framed the policy discussion by identifying the key topics that must be addressed in the design of the post-2012 climate policy architecture.  The plan guides action, but does not substantially limit choices, which is critical with important elections in the United States and Europe between now and the end of 2009. The challenge now rests on the world community, with the benefit of efforts such as the Harvard Project on International Climate Agreements, to develop the policy infrastructure that addresses these key topics in a manner that promotes broad and long-lived participation. Overall, the Bali conference produced consensus among an exceptionally diverse set of countries with very different perspectives on climate change and provided the promised road map for the path ahead.

For more information on this publication: Please contact Harvard Project on Climate Agreements
For Academic Citation: Stavins, Robert N. and Joseph Aldy. “Bali Climate Change Conference: Key Takeaways.” Harvard Project on Climate Agreements, Belfer Center, December 18, 2007.

The Authors

Robert N. Stavins