Compromise is necessary in any negotiation, but in Bali, where delegates from 187 countries met to begin framing a new global warming treaty, the US and EU were holding a staring contest. In the end, everyone blinked.
Meanwhile, in Washington, the Senate settled for a compromise energy bill instead of one that sets out a clear path to a cleaner energy future.
The Bali delegates agreed to negotiate by 2009 a new and more comprehensive global treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.
The countries pledged to address deforestation, which accounts for one-fifth of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. There was also a vague offering from China, likely to assume the lead as a producer of greenhouse gas emissions, that they will pursue "measurable, reportable and verifiable" emissions reductions.
The US delegate pledged only to participate in the forthcoming negotiations, but they rejected setting provisional targets for greenhouse gas cuts, and they flat-out refused to commit to reducing their own emissions.
"The Bali road map sets out a process but it doesn't tell us where we'll wind up," head of The Nature Conservancy delegation Andrew Deutz told Asia Times. "The science should have given us a clear picture of where we need to go. But the agreement doesn't paint a picture of the destination."
Indeed, it seems a bumpy road from Bali to Copenhagen, where the final deal will be sealed in 2009.
Despite the drama of extending the meeting by a day, the hard-line stand of the US -- its refusal to accept a target of 25-to-40 percent cuts in GHG emissions by 2020 -- was the headline grabber. It points to a bumpy road ahead, as the US continues to assert its muscle and insists on doing things its way.
White House Council on Environmental Quality chairman James Connaughton is quoted in Asia Times, saying, "The US will lead, and we will continue to lead, but leadership also requires others to fall in line and follow."
Fasten your seat belts; it's going to be a bumpy two-year ride.
Update: download the Bali Action Plan here.