Will US Negotiators in Bali Listen to Global Civil Society?

 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.

About the Authors

Frances Beinecke

Former President

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