They killed Kyoto, will they now butcher Bali too?

“Watch out for Canada, the US and Saudi Arabia” – that was the warning from a spokesperson for Climate Action Network, quoting a leaked memo from Ottowa ordering Canadian delegates to demand binding reductions from all major emitters, ie. China and India before they would sign up.

This all sounds fine and dandy, but it’s a re-run of the tactics employed by the Bush administration to torpedo Kyoto. Even though the West – and the US in particular – is overwhelmingly responsible for the current increases in atmospheric emissions, the US and its allies want to force newer economies to have to virtually abandon industrial and economic development to reduce emissions they didn’t create in the first place.

OK, ideally we should all somehow get together around the campfire and collectively agree how to cut global emissions by 90%, but since that ain’t going to happen, an equitable system based on polluter-pays principles has to be engineered, and that’s what Bali is about.

A week or two ago, the impression coming from Washington was that maybe this time the world’s superpower (and super-polluter) was ready to get serious and pull up a chair at the climate talks table. Then along comes Harlan Watson, US delegation chief.

The four page draft ‘Bali Mandate’ text was, Watson complained, “too complicated and long”. Also, the US doesn’t want the text to contain any specific figures that they could in any way be bound to. Heavens no. What we need is a more “streamlined” text setting out “a shared global goal” to cut emissions. A ‘goal’ can mean just exactly what you want it to mean. Elementary, Mr Watson.

The Bali Mandate, if agreed, is due to be completed by the end of 2009. One thing is for certain: unless he manages to pull off a Putin-style coup in the interim, GW Bush will not be President of the US at that time. What’s not clear is whether the next Administration, red or blue, will have the strength and will to overcome the special interests and big money that dictate US policy.

Sting had a song back in the 80s with the line: “I hope the Russians love their children too”. Maybe we all need to ask ourselves the same question now?

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