Bali Talks Aim to Set Path for Post-Kyoto Pact
By JANE SPENCE and JOHN MCKINNON
When the United Nations Climate Change Conference kicks off next week in Bali, Indonesia, delegates will be riding bicycles between meetings and shedding their suit jackets to save energy on air conditioning.
The U.S. delegation, eager to convey a new spirit of cooperation on the issue, will be going casual.
"Any chance I get to break out the flip-flops, I take," says James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, who will be representing the U.S. at the Bali conference.
Bikes and flip-flops are a starting point for offsetting the 47,000 metric tons of carbon-dioxide expected to be generated during the 12-day meeting, which begins Monday. But the delegates have a considerably larger task at hand in trying to rein in the more than 28 billion metric tons released on the planet each year -- an output linked to rising temperatures and everything from water shortages to species extinction.
The Bali conference aims to jump-start the two-year process of forging a new global climate treaty to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. But with major carbon emitters like China, India and the U.S. signaling they will keep up their historical opposition to Kyoto-based proposals that require them to make binding emissions cuts, expectations for tangible results are low. And, to some degree, major negotiations are on hold until the U.S. presidential election next year, since the next administration may have vastly different ideas on climate change.
As a result, the Bali conference will largely focus on logistical issues, like laying out a timetable for negotiating the next agreement, rather than on the substance of the next deal.