After nine days of meetings at scientific and expert level, which were followed by four days of ministerial talks that included a tumultuous marathon overnight negotiating session, the Bali summit produced a roadmap to agree on a global climate change successor deal to the replace the Kyoto Protocol in 2009.
Binding commitments or targets to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as advocated by the EU, were rejected by the US and other countries.
The text of the roadmap states that the parties will agree to "measurable, reportable and verifiable nationally appropriate mitigation commitments or actions, including quantified emission limitation and reduction objectives, by all developed country parties, while ensuring the comparability of efforts among them, taking into account differences in their national circumstances".
Developing countries are to adopt "nationally appropriate mitigation actions".
EU upbeat nonetheless
The EU's official take on the outcome of the talks was positive. "These were tough negotiations but we have succeeded in agreeing on a roadmap for negotiations that meets the European Union's main demands. We have agreed to start negotiations that will not only discuss commitments for developed countries, including the United States, but also actions by developing countries", EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said in a statement.
But Dimas also acknowledged that the open-ended language of the roadmap means that some of the toughest negotiations are still to come. "Now the real hard work must begin. It is essential that the agreement to be worked out over the next two years is ambitious enough to prevent global warming from reaching dangerous levels", he said.
US at the table
Although the US delegation refused to sign up to an earlier draft roadmap that featured a commitment to reduce global GHGs by 25% - 40% by 2020 compared with 1990 levels, a number of observers have hailed as a success the fact that the US will be at the negotiating table at all.
US participation in the talks was in part the result of last minute pressure during the conference, when the US delegation was jeered by the participants and urged to "get out of the way" by Kevin Conrad, Papua New Guinea's negotiator.
But Washington has already indicated that it has "serious concerns about other aspects of the decision as we begin the negotiations,'' according to a statement by White House press secretary Dana Perino, who pointed to the lack of emissions reduction targets for developing countries.
China and India win?
China, India and other growing emitters were considered by some observers as the 'winners' of the talks, having secured an increase in clean technology transfers without a commitment to reduce GHG emissions in future.
Tough road ahead
The non-specific nature of the roadmap's language has led to speculation that the most difficult negotiations are yet to come. The EU may continue to push for binding emissions reduction targets, particularly in the latter part of 2009 when a new US administration takes office.
Four negotiating sessions are already planned, starting in March or April 2008.