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Following The Bali Talks (but Not Too Closely...)

There sure are a lot of news reports being filed from Bali—where delegates from some 190 nations are starting to discuss what sort of climate change treaty might follow Kyoto—but there's not much in the way of actual, er, news.

The one piece I'd recommend is Alan Zarembo's harsh—but perfectly fair—article in the Los Angeles Times detailing all the ways in which the first Kyoto treaty fell flat. The only reason participating countries could report a 12 percent drop in emissions was because industries in the former Soviet Union collapsed after 1990 and factories were shuttered across Eastern Europe. If you exclude the former Soviet bloc, total CO2 emissions from countries bound by Kyoto's caps actually rose about 8 percent since 1990.

Now in some ways, Kyoto was less about achieving dramatic reductions and more about getting countries together to start cooperating over climate change. (Although it was obviously a huge problem that the United States never ratified the treaty and that it exempted developing countries from pollution limits.) So it's probably fair, as one expert tells the Times, to say that Kyoto "was a diplomatic success, but environmentally it was a complete failure," though obviously that excuse won't fly this time around...

Okay, one more: This Der Spiegel dispatch, if true, is pretty unbelievable. The Bush administration has long insisted that it won't accept mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions because, among other things, China and India haven't done so. But now U.S. officials are "discreetly" trying to convince China and India to publicly declare that they won't accept binding caps unless the United States does more—in effect, deadlocking the talks.

--Bradford Plumer