Newly influential developing countries must be part of any new agreement if it's to gain political traction and have a meaningful long-term effect. In a first, those countries, along with the European Union, stared down the US over final wording in the road map at the Bali talks, and the US blinked.
To move forward this year, negotiators may try to set an agenda that starts with issues the White House is most comfortable with, such as technological approaches to reducing CO2 emissions. Tougher issues – binding emissions targets for industrial countries and more-flexible goals that appeal to developing countries – may wait for a new US administration. At the least, analysts say, they will be watching to see if the White House tries to block elements it doesn't like.
Track 2: The Bush administration's Major Economies Meetings (MEM) on Energy Security and Climate Change. The idea is to gather the major emitters – responsible for some 80 percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions – to explore paths to reducing emissions significantly under a new agreement. Representatives from 17 countries, the European Union, and the UN took part in the first meeting in Washington last September. Now, the process is set to go into high gear, beginning with a meeting at the end of January in Hawaii. According to James Connaughton, who heads the president's Council on Environmental Quality, the meetings will look for ways to help support the new Bali road map.