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Will US Negotiators in Bali Listen to Global Civil Society?

Frances Beinecke

Posted December 13, 2007

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 Will the US Negotiators in Bali Listen to the Global Civil Society? 

It is day 6 for me in Bali, and the next 24 hours will be definitive. Will there be a Bali roadmap to guide the way to a new global climate change framework? And will the US enable this to happen? Or will it at least get out of the way?

Yesterday I was invited to represent US NGOs at a small lunch with Ban Ki Moon, the United Nations Secretary General. Also in attendance was Gro Harlem Brundtland, the former Prime Minister of Norway and a leading voice on sustainable development for two decades. She is now one of the Secretary General’s special envoys on climate.


At the meeting, the seven NGOs from around the world had 90 minutes to give our sense of the state of things. The conversation focused on the role the US must play to get a positive outcome.


Honestly, it was painful for me to be the sole representative of the single country seen as blocking important progress here. I believe there will be a roadmap coming out of Bali, and I believe that the US will get to where it needs to go eventually. But this will happen despite the official US stance here. Our country should be a leader in Bali, and it’s not.

Still, I was inspired by what the Secretary General told us. He is a firm believer in the power of NGOs to get government to act, and it was a thrill to hear him urge us on--to validate the critical role civil society plays all over the world. Of course, we used the opportunity to reciprocate: to ask him to use his position to give a strong push too. And we thanked him for the leadership he has taken on global climate change.

I came to Bali with the message that the US is on the move on climate--in cities, states, Congress, the corporate sector, and certainly in the outpouring of public concern. But none of those parties have a say inside the negotiations. In that room, it’s the US government following the instructions from the White House.


What are the instructions? It’s hard to tell. What you hear from them and what happens here on the ground may be two different things. Today Al Gore arrived, fresh from Oslo to urge the world on. How will that play at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave? Or maybe they’re not listening.


We have 24 hours to go, and then we’ll know. In the meantime, we have a lot of advocating to do.


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David AlexanderDec 14 2007 05:57 AM

Despite hope, the reality is that the United States has not moved. One reason could be the support by the Bush administration of "clean coal". Well, they have not told anyone how "clean" they intent to make coal, and it seems that the Bush team is afraid we could not make the goals that scientists feel are needed. And beyond doubt, the business concerns of this Administration combined with the lack of vision wherein climate adaptation becomes an OPPORTUNITY to grow all kinds of new technology and a place leading world markets, lacking that vision, the business paranoia results in the defiance by our country, against the wishes of most of the world, and it seems, against the world's best interests.

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