Saturday, December 15, 2007

International: Pyrric success in Bali

You have to hand it to the Bush administration: the US is getting world-wide acclaim for the "success" of the Bali global climate change talks, and it cost them nothing.

In one deft move, the US snapped up the label of the magnanimous "compromiser" at Bali. Initially opposed to the proposed agreement, the US delegation did a U-turn and gave its support to the proposed agreement.

But what is this agreement, exactly? It's not a Kyoto-style set of emissions targets, of course. There's no way Bush's core constituency could accept that. It's not even a promise to negotiate binding targets. Its an agreement to talk about undefined targets, and maybe make even make those targets binding. Moreover, the deadline for those talks isn't until the end of 2009 -- well after Bush leaves office.

Instead, it was the greens (mostly the EU) that did all the compromising. There is no agreement to make the emissions targets for industrialized countries binding, and there's no agreement for the developing countries like China and India to do much of anything.

Still, perhaps the Bali conference was not a total failure. It contributes to the long, slow struggle to get the world's attention and build the political will to take real actions to reduce climate change. For now, the best the international community can do is talk about voluntary targets, but that doesn't mean we have to settle for this at home. We can, and should, urge our national and local governments to accept binding targets, even in the absence of a real international agreement.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Canada: Hypocrisy in Bali

Canada's "principled stand" at this week's global climate change talks in Bali is, not to put too find a point on it, a farcical display of hypocrisy.

PM Stephen Harper argues that until all major emitters -- including developing countries like China and India -- have signed up to emissions reductions targets, Canada refuses to accept any limits on its own activity.

But Yvo de Boer, the normally diplomatic UN climate chief, exposed the absurdity of this position this week. “I personally find it interesting to hear Canada just a little while ago indicating it would not meet its commitments under the Kyoto protocol and now calling on developing countries to take binding reduction targets,” he told a press conference Monday.
“So I wonder how that's going to be received,” he added.

One wonders if Harper ever thought about how galling it would sound to developing countries that, after admitting that Canada won't meet the Kyoto targets, we are insisting that they take action. Either he didn't think about, which makes him mildly incompetent, or he did, which suggests his argument is really much more about avoiding binding commitments than it is about any "principled stand." Indeed, Harper's principles look an awful lot like a cynical masquerade.

Not exactly what Canadians expect of their Prime Minister in terms of leadership on the global stage.