Posted by: eengelh | December 12, 2007

The Talk Gets Serious in Bali

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Today, ministers and heads of state descended on Bali. Men with guns seemed to sprout up everywhere overnight, and the convention staff and taxi drivers looked almost alarmed at the sudden swell in crowds and security.

There was a new tension in the air. News of the bombing of UN headquarters in Algeria led to official statements denouncing the violence; of dozens killed in the blasts, at least 11 were UN employees. Before the U.S. delegation’s press conference, the press was required to clear out so that security could sweep the room.

Beyond the seeming chaos of black SUVs and bodies pushing to enter the convention center, there was a very tight order in Bali today. Access to the opening ceremony was limited, and ministers gave speeches prepared months in advance.

There were hopeful moments, as well. Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd handed over a freshly-signed copy of the Kyoto Protocol in a private meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on the sidelines of the meeting and was warmly applauded in the opening ceremony.

And work continued on a draft of the Bali roadmap (an early draft of the roadmap is available here). Environmental groups worry that its content is being seriously watered down in negotiations. “We are very close to a stalemate,” said Stephan Singer of WWF International. “Whatever we lose here is not coming back,” he added, expressing concern over continued wrangling over the inclusion of a target range for emissions cuts.

The talk was serious today; now we will see what happens when talks get serious behind closed doors.

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