Bali ha’i, Bali low?

The Bali conference ended with a cliffhanger, but as I was cocooned in a kayak paddling up the coast of the Abel Tasman it passed me by like a fur seal in the night. I did notice a fishy smell, but I don’t think it emanated from Nusa Dua. The big news, of course, was the US climbdown at the last minute, memorably blogged by David Sassoon at Solve Climate. He extensively quotes an eye witness account by Peter Riggs, Director of the Forum on Democracy and Trade:

And then it was the turn of the United States. Assistant Secretary of State for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky, with only the absolute bare minimum of diplomatic language, stated flatly that the United States rejected the changes. It was not prepared to accept the G-77 text. Then occurred one of the most remarkable sounds that has perhaps ever been heard in the annals of international diplomacy–like a collective global groan–descending then to a murmur, then increasing in volume to a full-throated expression of rage and anger and booing and jeering, lasting for a full minute, so that finally the Minister had to call the meeting back to order.

Which set the stage for the hero of the moment, the delegate from Papua New Guinea, Kevin Conrad:

Casting all diplomatic niceties to the winds, the representative from Papua New Guinea stood up and said: “if you’re not willing to lead, please get out of the way.” (This was a superb slap at a disgusting comment made by Council on Environmental Quality chief James Connaughton at a press conference a day earlier, when he had implied that the United States was leading, and other countries needed to “fall in line.”)

The end result? An agreement to negotiate an agreement, no targets specified, called the Bali roadmap. The next big conference will be in Poznan in a year’s time, with the deal supposed to be ready for signing in Copenhagen in December 2009. There’s no reference to targets for emissions cuts (at the insistence of the US), but a reference to bits of the IPCC report that could be taken to refer to a 450ppm CO2e target, but which could also be 550 or 650 according to Fred Pearce at New Scientist (behind a paywall). One important good point: any new deal will include provisions designed to limit deforestation.

The reception from the political mainstream has been cautious optimism, tempered in greener circles by disappointment that more wasn’t done [BBC, Economiststory, leader, Herald , Simon Upton at Stuff, Science Daily News]. There’s some good analysis from Oxfam NZ’s Barry Coates at the Telegraph [UK]. and from Gwynne Dyer in the Herald. George Monbiot is scathing about the process and the role played by the US (and Al Gore), Joe Romm at Climate Progress thinks it was an “utter failure“, but Hot Topic is glad that we’re all still talking. My gut feeling is that as climate change impacts become more and more difficult to ignore (and the White House is de-Bushed), the world’s diplomats will find they have the will to get a deal. Not perhaps the best of all deals, but any deal will be a good place to start.

If you’d like a laugh, read how the happy crew from the ICSC (aka NZ and Aussie climate cranks plus a puzzling peer) coped with the conference. If someone has a link to a picture of them dressed up in white coats performing their protest, I’d love to see it. And Monckton (with Aussie crank David Archibald) now claims to have written a paper that demolishes the science underlying modern climate studies. Hand that Nobel back, boys, 150 years of physics has just been overturned.

One thought on “Bali ha’i, Bali low?”

  1. I suppose having the U.S. technically involved is more helpful than not. The fact that the real negotiations can begin in 302 days keeps Bush from doing much damage to the ultimate treaty since it will probably take that long for the detailed policy options to be developed and get their initial vetting. Nobody should be under the illusion that Bush will fail to do as much damage as possible within the limited constraints of that timeframe. The apparent slight progress of his signing of the energy bill was (as we saw) intended in part as cover for the EPA denial of the real (California) emissions standards and otherwise as butt-coverage for Republican candidates in 2008. While court action should resolve the emissions problem by the time Bush leaves office, getting rid of the ethanol provisions (a massive farm subsidy) will be problematic.

    Of course, once the Democrats are entirely in charge it’s not as if we can expect them to sign off on a treaty or an energy bill that are actually scaled to the problem. They will split the dfference between short-term corporate self-interest and the actual need.

    One might be hopeful that a spectacular climate change indicator like the actual near-disappearance of the summer Arctic sea ice would change things, but while it will make for a good visual the short-term knock-on effects are inadequate. We already have a much worse indicator in the Tibetan-region glacier melt, but as long as the Indian and Chinese governments keep behaving (despite the recent appearance of some rhetoric to the contrary) as if that isn’t a problem I don’t think it’s going to be possible to highlight it enough for it to have a big impact on policy in the near term. (Of course one of the problems with the glacier melt is that even it is not proceeding quickly enough for any of the present leadership to think that it will result in a crisis while they are still in office or even during their lifetimes.)

    So, East African plains apes and their political institutions being what they are, I suppose we must hope for something spectacular to happen relatively soon. Fortunately there are some possibilities.

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