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United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon presided over the Bali climate conference recently.

Early in December we talked about the Bali climate conference and about which goals we hoped conference delegates would agree upon. We hoped to comment soon after on the actual results of the conference.

However, the conference ran longer than scheduled as delegates worked toward a final agreement. As a result, we did not have the opportunity to discuss the outcome in our December articles. Although it may now be old news, we thought it worth revisiting Bali to consider the expectations and outcomes.

The outcome of the conference was a document referred to as the “Bali road map.” This is a negotiating framework that commits governments to finalizing a successor to the Kyoto Protocol within two years. Delegates from all countries (including the United States and Canada) endorsed this road map in the end.

A major source of discussion between the more gung-ho climate change groups (such as the European Union) and the more drag-your-feet type countries (such as the U.S. and, possibly, Canada) was whether or not the Bali road map would include specific targets.

Going into the conference, the EU and some like-minded countries wanted the Bali road map to endorse the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) conclusion that greenhouse gas emissions should begin to decline within 10 to 15 years. To accomplish this, the EU wanted a commitment from industrialized countries to cut emissions by 25 to 40 per cent from 1990 levels by 2020, and for major developing countries (e.g. India and China) to agree in principle to future targets.

Several other countries, particularly the U.S., did not want specific targets included in the road map. Initially, Canada seemed to be in bed with the U.S., but John Baird expressed disappointment in a lack of explicit targets at the conclusion of the conference. So it appears Canada did want the road map to include targets, but wanted the targets to be lower. In the grand tradition of Canadian compromise, we end up sitting in the middle, between the two camps.

As a result of this opposition, the Bali road map does not mention specific targets for greenhouse gas reductions. However, aside from the road map, a second agreement was signed at Bali by delegates from the countries that ratified the Kyoto Protocol. This agreement commits these countries to the EU’s suggested targets. In spite of the lack of targets in the Bali road map, this agreement will be a major guiding influence when targets are negotiated to a successor for Kyoto.

Therefore, it appears the Bali conference both set targets and did not set targets. The countries that wanted targets signed the target document and those that did not, did not. This does sort of smack of preaching to the choir since the countries that wanted the target probably would have met them anyway, whether or not they signed a piece of paper in Bali. And the countries that would have needed a push to meet targets did not sign the target document and are, therefore, not bound to meet the targets.

Overall, we feel the conference was not as huge a success as it could have been, but also not as huge a flop as it could have been. On a positive note, there appears to be a general acceptance global warming is real and we do have to do something about it. This is a significant step forward since the Kyoto conference.

Let’s hope we keep moving forward.

Andrew Laursen is an assistant professor at Ryerson University, studying ecosystem ecology. Sophia Dore is an environmental scientist with Conestoga-Rovers & Associates, an environmental consulting company.