SPONTANEOUS cheering is rarely heard at United Nations meetings but it has broken out twice during the Bali, Indonesia, UN conference on a new global warming treaty which ends today. The first time was when Australia's new prime minister, Kevin Rudd, announded that his country was joining the existing Kyoto treaty with immediate effect, thus reversing the US-aligned policy of his predecessor, John Howard. The second was yesterday when Al Gore addressed the conference and told delegates: “My country the United States is principally responsible for obstructing progress here in Bali” and added, “I don't know how you navigate round this enormous elephant in the room which I've been undiplomatic enough to name. But I'm asking you to do it.” That navigation will indeed be tricky. The US, backed by Japan, is refusing to agree to a conference conclusion, backed by the EU, that carbon emmissions should be reduced by between 25-40 per cent by 2020, the target recommended by the scientists on the UN Panel on Climate Change as the minimum needed. Instead the US wants to rely on unquantified reductions achieved by new technologies and has called the second of its so-called “Major Emitters” meeting for late January in Hawaii. The EU spokesman at the conference said that if no reduction targets are set in Bali there will be no point in going to Hawaii. Mr Gore helpfully pointed out that in one year and 40 days the US will have a new president.


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