Europe Blinks; U.S., Canada Win Lame Bali Compromise

Honoring the will of the lowest common denominator - the worst polluters and most resistant policy makers in the world - 191 countries negotiating global greenhouse emission limits in Bali have come to a “compromise” that doesn't mention actual limits.

Canada can take much of the credit for this non-result. With the United States and Japan, Canada was one of the most enthusiastic holdouts against making binding commitments. But having refused to sign the original Kyoto Accord, the U.S. was not allowed to attend some of the Bali meetings, leaving it to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's minions to run interference for the Americans.

Job well done, apparently. The only mention of near-term targets for emission reductions are buried in footnotes in the “Bali road map” - the metaphorical way forward in which we all get to drive our SUVs to hell on Earth.

The Europeans, gracious to a fault, are so far trying to spin this as something more than an historic waste of time. And, given the recalcitrance of the current leaders in Canada and the U.S., it's hard to imagine what preferable result was available.

Never mind. As Al Gore pointed out on Thursday, the U.S. will be under new management soon enough. The only question is whether Canadians will also effect a change - or whether the Harper Conservatives will finally get a clue on global warming.

Either scenario would work.


This meeting was a breakthrough only in the sense that it wasn’t a failure. With all of the ill-intentioned negotiating, delaying and sheer incompetence that was displayed by some governments at this conference, it’s a wonder that the rest of the world got the developed dissenters (Canada, US, Japan) to agree to anything.

There lies, however, a growing burden on these three countries, a burden that also spreads through the rest of the world as more time passes. While it is Canada, the US and Japan that want mandatory caps on their undeveloped emitting cousins, China and India, their ability to negotiate for this result is severely compromised due to their lack of action and leadership on the issue, and in the case of the US, their inability to even attend major negotiations because of their Kyoto non-compliance. In the meantime, the ability of the rest of the world to lean on these developing emitters is severely undercut by the actions of the three crazy uncles, Japan, Canada and the US, who are busy playing out their antics in front of the rest of the world.

Now, for the rest of the civilized nations who are seriously prepared to act against the devastating effects of climate change, this conference was a bullet dodged and a lesson learned. The bullet being the complete unraveling of the Kyoto framework and process. The sabotaging actions of some member countries came close to undermining the will of the rest of the world, and that must not happen again. The lesson to learn from this is that the next stage of the agreement must have non-compliance consequences. It does the world no good for there to be a dissenters loop-hole, open to whichever nation at the time is feeling the need to protect their “economic interests”. Global warming doesn’t care what GDP growth is - it only exists as a result of our dissent, our poor stewardship and our shirked responsibilities.

There will be changes in governments around the world, some sooner than others, and then they will change again. Attempts to derail the process from achieving its stated goal will continue, as they have in the past, and likely in new and unforeseen ways. The fight against global warming must always be kept bigger than any party or any government. This is a global issue, to be decided by the will of the collective human species. Those who best understand and exemplify the human spirit will be those who stand to make the greatest difference.