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.

1 comment:

Northern Spirit said...

An interesting analysis, but a poor metaphor. Rather, than a pyrrhic victory, that is one that has been purchased at too great a cost, wasn't the American "success" at Bali bought very cheaply? A better comparator tnan the Greek King Pyrrhus of Epirus, would be another eastern adventurer, Belisarius, who was reknown for achieving success with the expenditure of very little. (Dr. James Murray did put the "h" in the Oxford dictionary "pyrrhic", was it omitted by Mr. Webster?)