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What Bush really won in Bali

For the first time, all nations said they will consider ways to reduce global warming – as Bush sought.

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Is it a date that will live in infamy? On Dec. 14, at the climate-change talks in Bali, poor and rich nations agreed – for the first time – to each consider ways to reduce greenhouse gases. Oddly, though, this historic feat was a win for the Bush White House.

The Bali "action plan," reached Saturday by nearly 190 countries, sets the stage for negotiating a new, binding treaty that may be humanity's last opportunity to prevent the worst scenarios predicted in global warming.

The new pact would replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012, and which requires cuts in carbon emissions from only 36 nations, and only the major industrialized ones – a big reason why the US Senate and Bush decided not to join Kyoto.

To be sure, the Bali "road map" was not a complete win for Mr. Bush. Developing nations, which include economic giants such as China, India, and Brazil, need only consider measurable "actions" to reduce their effects on climate. The richer nations, meanwhile, agreed to seek "quantified" emission cuts.

This out-of-date divide between countries of the "north and south" is why Bush set up parallel talks involving the world's 16 largest emitters – rich and poor – who account for more than 80 percent of greenhouse gases. That group meets in Hawaii next month, outside the UN umbrella, with an aim to reach a consensus on voluntary targets.

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