US backdown on post-Kyoto agreement
Today’s papers report contradictory assessments of the latest climate talks in Montreal. The NY TImes reports that the US Administration has backed down on attempts to stop negotiations for the setting of new targets for the post-Kyoto period. The US was apparently left out on a limb by China and Australia, its main allies in attempts to stop any real action, neither of which were prepared to join the US and Saudi Arabia in walking out of the talks. The result is likely to be a slight softening of language in the final agreement, but determined attempts to sabotage the process have failed.
It’s noteworthy that, despite a lot of speculation that Tony Blair was preparing the ground for a capitulation to the Bush Administration, nothing of the kind actually happened, and the US stance was repeatedly and vigorously attacked by nearly all the participants in the conference, including British delegates.
On the other hand, Australia’s environment minister was reported in today’s SMH as saying that the Kyoto protocol was almost dead
A number of [countries] are saying ‘Look, we made a mistake. We don’t think that it’s worth opening up a new negotiation about a future commitment when the commitments we have today are looking so unreasonable’,
The only support I can find for Campbell’s statement in the NYT report is the observation that the agreement on negotations does not include a specific date for ending talks, reflecting the difficulties in meeting existing targets.
An alternative interpretation is that Campbell’s statement is designed to give him cover with the domestic anti-Kyoto lobby for his break with the US position at the talks, which undoubtedly contributed to the American backdown. If so, good for him – he’s been about as good a minister as possible, given the Howard government’s generally bad position.
Overall, the outcome of these talks was about the best that could be hoped for. Undoubtedly, the accumulation of evidence over the past couple of years, to the point where no-one who is both well-informed and honest can deny the reality of human-caused global warming, has contributed to this outcome, despite the obvious reluctance of governments everywhere to do anything painful.