Saturday, December 15, 2007

A Small But Significant Symbolic Victory At Bali

Even the Bush administration it seems, when faced with the overwhelming opposition of the representatives of 190 countries representing most of the human race (it couldn't accuse them all of harboring weapons of mass destruction and terrorists and invade them, or use butterfly ballots and poorly constructed punch card ballots to claim that its positions had won out) can retreat on a major issue, sort of.

The public conclusion to the Bali Conference was really unprecedented for virtually any international conference anywhere, reminiscent of a Dodger Giant baseball game in the Ebbets Field of my youth, with the
U.S. delegation as the Giants. According to press reports, speakers criticizing tU.S. policy(and there were apparently many) were cheered enthusiastically and the head of the U.S. delegation booed loudly when
she spoke. Even U.S. military and political allies remained silent, rather like Giant fans keeping their mouths shut in the bleachers. A delegate from New Guinea was cheered lustily when he said to the U.S. delegation "if you are not willing to lead, leave it to the rest of us. Please get out of the way."

The issue was in part what an old political scientist once called a "battle of thesauruses," meaning conflicts over the specific wording of legislation. The U.S. strongly opposed a substitute motion by India on the placement of the words, "measurable, reportable, and verifiable" which was strongly supported by developing nations, since the Bush administration policy has been to a. deny until very recently the science concerning the dangers of global warming and b. pass the buck to developing nations, portraying them as the contemporary and future source of the problem, if there really is one.

But battles over language and wording are important, since they point the way to policy. As for the concrete results, the Bush administration failed to remove the loose commitment to a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emission by the developed countries by 2020 and a 50% reduction by 2050, but relegated them to the footnotes of the agreement, not to what most delegates had wished would be a "road map" for a global policy. However, as Al Gore said to the conference, the U.S. will hopefully be playing a very different role on this issue after the Bush administration finds itself in the toxic waste dump of history.

As an amusing and, for the Bush administration, well deserved retort, Xie Zhinhua, the head of the Chinese delegation (Bush has particularly tried to shift blame to China on the issue of greenhouse gasses) welcome
the Bush administration . joining in the agreement which China supporting by welcoming the U.S. "onto the bus," but added that "the United States is not in the drivers seat," an understatement to say the very least

Norman Markowitz

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