Bali Diary

The road map

Phil Woolas, Saturday, 4pm, London: Am back in Britain after 20 hour flight via Osaka of all places. It was one of the most frustrating 20 hours of my life. I left Bali at midnight last night their time with the talks still going on and Hilary still shuttling in and out of the Minister’s negotiating huddle. With my job done and my ticket booked I had to leave without knowing the outcome. Anyway, I’ve talked to one of our negotiating team and she has filled me in with what is good news indeed.

The headlines are about the US U-turn but what really counts is that there is a “road-map”. My own view is that these talks were, without being too melodramatic, a turning point for the world and especially the United Nations. The week started with UN workers being killed by a terrorist bomb in Algeria and ended with a UN agreement involving all the countries of the world.

Phil Woolas with the Canadian Youth DelegationClimate change is by its very nature international. Ultimately it doesn’t matter who caused it or who is causing it, we all suffer from it. Diplomatically it is the ultimate Mutually Assured Destruction. One of the EU negotiators likened the arguments for industrialised countries not taking action to trying to stop your neighbour being alcoholic by getting drunk!

Unlike trade or even arms, it’s very difficult to pin down what it is we are bargaining over. If all the countries of the world said they didn’t care and they weren’t prepared to reduce their carbon footprint, what would we do? We would have to build our flood defences, change our building regulations, etc. at the cost of billions of pounds, far more expensive that changing our energy production methods. In truth the negotiations barter separate but related issues. Trees and clean coal, biofuels and solar, etc depending on the starting point of each country, their economic track and their geography. At the heart of it of course is money but also the world is having to learn that there is a new currency, carbon. Ultimately this fact will change the balance of power in the world.

We now have two years to reach agreement. We have the ambition, rooted in the science, we have the commitments for the industrialised developed and developing countries and we have forestry, technology transfer and finance frameworks to fill in. Can it work? I hope so.

For me, I’ve always being involved in negotiations and bartering ( I worked for a trade union for 7 years and have been involved in the black arts of politics for 25 years!). But I’ve never been involved in anything so complicated. I am exhausted - and it is Hilary Benn who has been working through the night! When we got back to Heathrow the Conference in Bali had finished and I felt like you do at the end of a school term. I’d watched David Attenborough’s Living Planet on the plane and I just can’t help but think we had all better get real.

Let me know if you enjoyed this diary and if you want, I’ll keep it going through to 2009. I’ll put an e-mail address up on Monday. If I don’t get any feedback, you’ll have to wait for the memoirs!

P.S. Photo is of me with the Canadian Youth Delegation explaining how the talks were going. They asked me some of the trickiest questions of the entire conference!

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