Contributing Monkie G Living Staff Monkies
Published on December 19, 2007
The Bali Conference closed last weekend to a chorus of boos and hisses, directed mostly at the U.S. delegation for its successful stonewalling of progress in the war on climate change. It’s well known by now that the U.S. is the only industrialized country not to have signed on to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which calls for countries to reduce emissions to 5% below 1990 levels by 2012. Although it became clear at the Bali conference that many countries won’t reach these targets, it is unclear how much U.S. resistance to limits has shaped others’ dedication to the treaty.
Al Gore spoke at Bali, expressing his shame at the behavior of the U.S. delegation headed by Paula Dobriansky. The U.S. held firm to its belief that it would create its own policy (by mid-2008) and not subject itself to emission limits set by international consensus. Only at the last minute did the U.S. give up its hegemonic demands and sign the agreement, which convenes another meeting in Copenhagen in two years.
Despite being hailed a success by those involved, the Bali agreement does little except promise that a new treaty – call it Kyoto II or the Copenhagen Protocol – will be adopted in 2009, and that the U.S. relented to providing technical emissions assistance to poor countries. This last piece was contested most hotly by the US; the Bush administration has always favored “voluntary compliance” with all environmental matters. The biggest disappointment, however, is that the major greenhouse emitters, the U.S. and China, successfully stalled emission limits for at least two years and were not held accountable for their actions since Kyoto.
Is it likely that the world can proceed without the U.S. (and China) signing on? I don’t think the world can wait for us to pull our heads out of the sand. I truly believe that there is popular American support for greenhouse cutbacks and limits. As a nation of people, we are finally taking more responsibility on a personal level and expect more from our leaders than the “bad for business” retort. Hopefully the next presidential administration won’t be so hamstrung by the same special business groups that dictate current policy.