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The Bali road map

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference in Bali in December 2007 was high in political stakes as well as emotion. But did it produce a result and what more might be done? New Zealand’s climate change ambassador offers his views.

The dramatic last day of the UN Climate Change Conference in Bali produced an agreement, but to do what exactly? Stripped of the constructive ambiguity needed to reach consensus, it amounts to acceptance of the need for global cuts in emissions, in which all developed countries take a leading role, and developing countries make quantifiable contributions in return for assistance in technology, financing and adaptation. A commitment to address reducing emissions from deforestation is another key outcome.

It’s not really a road map yet–rather a sketch of a route over unmapped territory. The next two years of negotiations will have to create the necessary roads and milestones. It is a daunting task to undertake in such a short time, but one in which there is a leading role to be played by both OECD governments and the Organisation.

For New Zealand the comprehensiveness of the outcome on post-2012 arrangements is welcome. Our own contribution to comprehensiveness is our emissions trading scheme. It gets under way next year, and by 2013 is intended to include all sectors of the economy and all greenhouse gases. It was fitting that the legislation introducing the scheme passed its first reading in our parliament during the Bali meeting with only two votes against. New Zealand is also leading research on non-CO2 greenhouse gases from livestock, which has had little international attention so far, even though for some countries this can be 25% or more of total emissions–and in New Zealand’s case almost 50%. We have established an international research network, the Livestock Emissions Abatement Research Network (LEARN), to take this work forward.

What can the OECD as an organisation contribute to the Bali road map? The OECD’s major assets are its analytical capacity and its engagement with some of the major developing countries and emerging economies. Being a forum for engagement rather than negotiation gives the OECD more freedom to explore issues with developing country partners.

Climate change is already a crowded field. There is no need for the OECD to duplicate work that is being done elsewhere, such as the fundamental design of the post-2012 arrangements, sectoral approaches to reducing emissions, or improving the Kyoto Protocol’s existing flexibility mechanisms.

The International Energy Agency (IEA), a sister organisation of the OECD, is playing a fundamental role in the single most important issue of climate change, the future of energy supplies and production. The OECD/IEA Annex I Expert Group established under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1994 to address analytical issues also plays a useful role, from providing guidance on standardised reporting to laying the groundwork for emissions trading and other market instruments in the Kyoto Protocol.

Environment, trade and development experts all play their part. But in looking at climate change across the OECD there needs to be a stronger shift from compiling the work of individual directorates to greater co-ordination under strategic priorities, aligned with the needs of the post-2012 negotiations. There are gaps to be filled, many of them in the economic field. Topics the OECD could continue to address include: modelling of macro and microeconomic impacts; trade and climate change; financial instruments; assessing the costs of mitigation; possible burden-sharing arrangements to ensure comparability of effort between different countries; and criteria to guide the participation of developing countries.

Cracking some of these difficult issues would be a welcome contribution to turning the Bali sketch into a veritable road map.


©OECD Observer No. 264/265, December 2007-January 2008