http://www.sina.com.cn 2007年12月25日 10:18
The final hours of the Bali conference on climate change might have been scripted in Hollywood. The tension mounted between America and its allies on the one hand, and Europe and its allies on the other. The deadline for agreement passed, and had to be extended. The UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, begged for compromise. One of the American delegates, Paula Dobriansky, was booed. Yvo de Boer, the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and boss of the conference, wept, and had to be helped off-stage. The situation was deadlocked; the planet doomed.
Who would save it? The little guy, of course: Kevin Conrad, a (conveniently handsome) delegate from Papua New Guinea, a poor but beautiful country condemned to sink beneath the waves unless the big powers act. He leant towards his microphone. “If for some reason you are not willing to lead,” he said, referring to an arrogant comment on leadership by one of the American delegates, “leave it to the rest of us. Please—get out of the way.” The applause was thunderous. Minutes later, Ms Dobriansky crumpled. “We will go forward and join consensus,” she said. There were sighs of relief and gasps of elation. The planet was saved. It was, everybody agreed, an historic agreement.
Sadly, the substance did not remotely match the storyline. The only real achievement at Bali was a decision to set up a pilot project to investigate how to stop tropical deforestation. Aside from that, the conference, with 15,000 delegates, activists and journalists, cost a great deal in money, carbon and political energy and produced nothing but a vapid statement of good intentions, from which America ensured that all substance was removed. An international agreement to replace the Kyoto protocol, which runs out in 2012, does need to be reached. But negotiations will get nowhere until 2009, when this American administration will probably make way for one that takes climate change seriously.
The glacial pace of progress towards a global agreement contrasts with what is happening in Europe. After a row last year with carmakers, which had failed to meet voluntary emissions targets, the European Commission is about to force them to limit the carbon intensity of their fleets. Europe is particularly hard on its car industry; but other countries are picking on road transport. China has imposed fuel-economy regulations, and America's Congress has just approved a bill tightening its own. By 2020 California will require all the petrol sold there to meet a low-carbon standard.