âeoeWe are ending up with something so watered down there was no need for 12,000 people to gather here in Bali to have a watered-down text. We could have done that by email.âe âe”Dr. Angus Friday, Chair of the Alliance of Small Island States

In a narrow and formal sense, last monthâe(TM)s Climate Change conference in Bali achieved its objectives. The Kyoto Protocol is due to expire in 2012: the Bali gatheringâe(TM)s purpose was to adopt a roadmap for negotiating a new treaty âe” and that was done. A new roadmap, called the Bali Action Plan, was adopted unanimously at an overtime session, after the U.S. withdrew its objections.

As the New York Times pointed out, the dramatic U.S. capitulation really didnâe(TM)t amount to much: âeoeFrom the United States the delegates got nothing, except a promise to participate in the forthcoming negotiations.âe

Thatâe(TM)s why the Bali meetings were a failure in any meaningful sense. They didnâe(TM)t even discuss the Kyoto Protocolâe(TM)s failure to produce results, failed to recognize the need for rapid action, and above all failed to adopt (or even recommend) any targets for emission reductions. The final resolution might better be called the Bali Inaction Plan âe” at best it is an agreement to discuss further, and maybe agree in 2009 on measures that might be implemented after 2012.

As Janet Redman, an observer from the Institute for Policy Studies, writes:

âeoeThe Bali âe~action planâe(TM) does almost nothing to ensure that the people most affected by the worst impacts of climate change will receive the resources needed to survive impending climate chaos. This transition plan for replacing the Kyoto Protocol, which is so far being called the âeoeBali mandate,âe instead entrenches the power of big business, and the global financial institutions that work on its behalf, without committing any government to tangible emissions reductions.âe

The only concrete measure approved in Bali was a plan to take one of Kyotoâe(TM)s worst features âe” the so-called Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) âe” and make it worse. Under CDM, major polluters in the industrialized countries can avoid reducing emissions in their home countries by investing in âeoecleanâe projects in the Third World. Morally, this is bizarre âe” the modern equivalent of paying the medieval church to be forgiven for sins. Worse, the CDM process is often corrupt, providing credits (and profits) for projects that donâe(TM)t reduce emissions, or that would have been carried out anyway.

No one familiar with the Harper governmentâe(TM)s record will be surprised that Canada played a particularly appalling role in the Bali talks. Working closely with the U.S. and Japan, the Canadian delegation did its utmost to eliminate action from the Bali Action Plan. Ottawaâe(TM)s alignment with the Bush crew reached absurd proportions: Environment Minister Baird even copied his Washington mentors by holding out to the last minute and then dramatically withdrawing his objections so that the vote could be unanimous.

The U.S.-Canada do-nothing position was counter-posed to a policy that wasnâe(TM)t much better. The European Union, which is less dependent on coal and oil than its North American competitors, initially proposed to mention (not decide on) emission targets at the low end of what scientists say is essential. They see such targets as the royal road to windfall profits from carbon trading and clean development schemes. The poorest people and countries are pressured into making development choices determined not by their own needs, but by the desire of corporations in the north to avoid cutting emissions.

But when the U.S.-Canada-Japan axis objected, the EU quickly capitulated, replacing all mention of targets with a footnote reference to an IPCC document.

Canada has one of the worst records in the world for greenhouse gas emissions. That fact alone places special responsibility on activists in this country to confront our own government, to demand that it take immediate action to reduce emissions at home and to support climate justice for the countries and peoples who are most harmed by Canadian capitalist irresponsibility.

Itâe(TM)s very likely that there will be a federal election in 2008. Climate change activists will adopt different positions, some favoring abstention, others supporting the NDP, the Green Party, or specific individual candidates. This will offer many opportunities for debate and discussion, opportunities that should be eagerly welcomed. Our stress throughout should be on the need to build an independent movement that demands concrete action from politicians and parties of all political stripes.

To confront politicians and policy makers effectively, the green movement needs to advance its own Peopleâe(TM)s Agenda on Climate Change, a program that stresses both reducing emissions in Canada and advancing climate justice around the world. The specific details of such an agenda need to be worked out collaboratively by a wide range of activists, but the following are some of the demands we might raise.

    âe¢ The experts in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have called for emission reductions of 25-40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, and 50-85 percent by 2050. Regardless of what happens in international negotiations, Canada should unilaterally adopt and implement those targets.

    âe¢ Emissions-trading plans and carbon-tax schemes are actually highly regressive taxes that mostly fall on poor people. Instead, Canada should impose hard limits on the emissions produced by the largest resource and energy companies.

    âe¢ As the Climate Justice Now Coalition points out, the only really effective way to cut emissions is to leave fossil fuels in the ground. In Canada this means immediately stopping all expansion of the tar sands âe” and then shutting them down quickly. Greenpeace has rightly called the tar sands the âeoebiggest global warming crime in history.âe Stopping that crime must be a priority.

    âe¢ Military spending and the federal budget surplus should be immediately redirected into public energy-saving projects such as expanding mass transit and retrofitting homes and office buildings. Tar sands workers and redeployed soldiers can play key roles in this effort.

    âe¢ Canada must recognize its ecological debt to the Third World and to indigenous peoples. Paying that debt means cleaning up the damage that Canadaâe(TM)s capitalists have caused, providing concrete assistance in adapting to climate change, and transferring the resources and technology needed for clean economic development.

The Bali conference failed to adopt effective measures against climate change: a treaty based on the Bali decisions would be worse than Kyoto. But Bali may also be remembered as the beginning point for a revitalized global movement for climate action and climate justice.