IN extraordinary scenes at the Bali Climate Change Conference in the early hours of yesterday morning the United States reversed its restrictive policies in the face of hostility from almost the whole world community. Earlier in the week President Bush's climate change adviser, James Connaughton, had told the Conference, “We will continue to lead but leadership also requires others to fall in line and follow.” Now the delegate from Papua New Guinea told the Americans, “If you are not willing to lead, then get out of the way.” After apparently heated discussions among the American delegation its leader, Paula Dobriansky, pushed her microphone button and said, “We will go forward and join the consensus.” It was diplomatic of Hilary Benn, Britain's Environment Secretary, to say that “ Nobody comes out of this humiliated” but the truth is that the United States has brought humiliation on itself by prolonged obstructive non-cooperation on global warning and climate change issues.

President Bush's foreign policy decisions have been bad enough but his ignorant dismissal of scientific opinion has delayed effective global action on climate change for seven years.

That lost ground now has to be recovered and new measures developed to slow down and stop the accelerating pace of climate change. Two years of very tough negotiations lie ahead in order to finalise a new climate change treaty by 2009 to replace the Kyoto protocols. Let us hope that the United States under a new president will take an active part in that process.


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