It’s spring in the city of Bonn, Germany, where 2,600 people from 180 countries are meeting to negotiate and debate the next phase of international action to tackle climate change. Our very own political advisor Geoff Keey is there to monitor the negotiations. Over the next two weeks he’ll be blogging from Bonn
Yesterday the formal negotiations started. The highlight of the day was a speech by the United States chief climate change negotiator Todd Stern that outlined a new willingness by the United States to take action. In his address he clearly stated that the US accepted responsibility for its contribution to causing climate change.
“The United States recognizes our unique responsibility both as the largest historic emitter of greenhouse gases and as a country with important human, financial, and technological capabilities and resources.”
Stern’s stance on climate change was unequivocal:
“The science is clear, the threat is real, the facts on the ground are outstripping the worst-case scenarios. The cost of inaction or inadequate action are unacceptable.”
Although the US hasn’t committed to the kind of greenhouse pollution reductions that are needed to avoid dangerous levels of climate change, the refreshing change in tone from the Bush administration was warmly applauded by delegates from around the world. Quite a change from when US interventions met with stony silence.
Todd Stern added that economies with high greenhouse gas emissions would become economic losers in the 21st Century.
“By transforming to a low-carbon economy, we can stimulate global economic growth and put ourselves on a path of sustainable development for the 21st century. I would go so far as to say that those who hang back and cling to a high-carbon path will be economic losers in the end because with the scientific facts of global warming getting worse and worse, high-carbon products and production methods will not be viable for long.”
New Zealand has amongst the highest per-capita greenhouse gas pollution of any country in the world. Put bluntly, the leadership of the world’s largest economy reckons that economies like New Zealand’s are loser economies and that the New Zealand Government’s strategy of more roads, more fossil fuel power stations and more agricultural emissions is not the way to go.
But the last word for today really belongs to the tiny island state of Tuvalu that is threatened by rising sea levels. In their response, they reminded the United States that rhetoric needed to be matched with action. It’s a message that could be just as pointedly aimed at New Zealand.