It is just as well that delegates from the 190 countries who gathered in Bali struggled so hard over the fine print of the ‘Bali roadmap’. For the resolution will determine how nations do their homework for the next climate meet in Denmark in 2009, which has to flesh out a more binding global warming pact. There isn’t much time either, as the validity of the Kyoto Protocol — which mandates industrialised countries to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by an average of 5.2 per cent below 1990 levels by 2010 — runs out in 2012. The urgency is all the more as climatologists predict, among other effects, a 2º Celsius rise in global temperatures over the next century as a result of the projected rise in CO2 and other GHGs like methane in the atmosphere.
The Bali summit did create some room for optimism. Although a definitive agreement on emissions targets remains elusive, countries that previously blocked any action at all on fighting climate change are now apparently ready to cooperate. China and the US have the two biggest carbon footprints. So the Chinese contingent’s willingness to join in the fight against global warming, and with Australia endorsing Kyoto, Washington is left isolated as the remaining major defaulter. Washington argues that the treaty is ‘lopsided’ since it doesn’t require developing countries to reduce pollution as much as developed countries. But with countries like India piling on relentless pressure, the US — which accounts for 24 per cent of the world’s total output of carbon dioxide — apparently retracted its insistence on the imposition of binding commitments on developing countries.
Unfortunately, that is just about all the good news, as there’s little to suggest that the US may agree to mandatory cuts in GHG emissions any time soon. Which means all the other agreements reached in Bali lack the concerted global action that’s necessary. Building low-carbon economies, for instance, is an important part of any strategy to combat climate change and a relaxed cap on CO2 — as Washington demands — will only undercut the Kyoto protocol.