The agreement reached on climate change at the Bali Conference is disappointing in certain obvious ways, but I think John Quiggin is absolutely right to hail it as an important victory for the planet. Given the reality that George W. Bush is President of the United States this is about as good an outcome as could have taken place.
Back when I was attending the UN High-Level Meeting on climate change, diplomats and officials described the purpose of the Bali to me this way: Everyone knew there was no hope of anything really being done unless there’s political change in the United States. The goal, however, is to make sure that if there is political change, that the new American president is able to hit the ground running in January 2009 and join an international process that’s already under way instead of time and energy being expended in getting the machinery rolling. It’s depressing that that’s the level on which activities in 2007 and 2008 are going to need to proceed, but that’s also the reality of the situation. And given that reality, things are mostly going according to plan. Still, to an almost frightening extent everything hinges on the election.