Once upon a time there was an old movie called The Road to Bali, where there was lots of singing (good) from Bing Crosby and jokes (terrible) from Bob Hope.
But 'Bali' and 'Road' combine today to mean something very different. The Bali Road Map is the new mechanism the world's governments have devised to begin to get a grip on global climate change.
They plan to begin creating the Road Map during the UN's climate change conference in Bali (3-14 December) and complete it in two years' time, when they meet in Copenhagen in December 2009. That, anyway, is the hope. Bali will be where the starting pistol is fired and in Copenhagen, they will focus on the finishing tape.
But there are plenty of doubts and worries, from delegates and observers who remember the trauma of Kyoto. Will there really be a Bali Road Map? If there is, what will it look like? Will it be ready in time for Copenhagen? The Kyoto Protocol lapses in 2012. There needs to be something solid to take its place, and there isn't much time.
So from Monday world leaders will be flocking to Bali, to the UN's Conference on Climate Change. The newly elected Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will be there. So will Britain's Gordon Brown, who is often thought to be so caught up in his vision of eradicating poverty that he hasn't yet registered that climate change is set to be the greatest poverty creator of all time. Will he finally register it in Bali?
Hopes rest on the Bali conference for the inception also of two other major developments:
- The Adaptation Fund, a pool of money from rich countries to help poorer countries and communities adapt to the consequences of climate change.
- An agreement on RED ('Reduced Emissions from Deforestation'). Some countries say it doesn't make sense to give out money just for planting new trees: there should be compensation also for poor countries who opt to preserve their rainforests instead of cutting them down for much-needed cash.
Both of these ideas sound like common sense. Can't we just get on with making them happen? But the devil lies not in the proposition but in the 'modality', to use UN-speak: not in the 'what' but the 'how'. How are countries going to ensure these bold and noble ideas will be implemented properly, and not become distorted by self-interest? These 'modalities' are really what the delegates will have to spend most of their time working out.