The outcome of the international climate talks in Bali has been a huge win for the planet. Given the participation of the Bush Administration, we were never going to get firm short-term targets in the agreement of this round of negotiations (except as the result of a US walkout, and a deal struck by the rest of the world). But on just about every other score, the outcome has been better than anyone could reasonably have expected, including:
- Agreement in principle on a 2050 target of halving emissions
- Agreement to negotiate a binding deal in 2009, when Bush will be gone, and short-term targets back on the table
- Agreement to provide assistance to developing countries for both mitigation and adaptation
- Agreement by China to pursue emissions-cutting actions that are “measurable, reportable and verifiable.”
There are of course, some individual winners too, of whom the most notable is undoubtedly Al Gore. His intervention, correctly blaming the US Administration for the lack of progress at the talks, and putting effective pressure on its remaining allies, the governments of Canada and Japan, made it clear that the political price for a failure would be paid by the US, and that those who backed Bush now would find themselves alone in the near future.
Australia’s new Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has also been a big winner. Until his election, Australia, as the only other significant country not to ratify Kyoto, was Bush’s most important supporter. After the switch, Australia was able to pursue a negotiating strategy which sometimes seemed to accommodating to the US, but ultimately produced an excellent outcome.
Of course, there are also some losers, who did all they could to stop this happening, and failed. But they know who they are, and there’s no need to dwell on them today.
There’ll be plenty of difficulties ahead, and plenty of hard bargaining over details. But for the first time, we can be reasonably hopeful that the people of the world will act to avoid the worst of the impending ecological catastrophe of climate change.