I feel somewhat guilty for not following the goings-on in Bali more closely. A few of you have written to ask why.

It’s just that every single international meeting on climate since I started covering this stuff has gone down the exact … same … way. It’s like clockwork: everyone arrives full of hope, because now, finally, there’s real momentum, people really get the problem; midway through, everyone’s getting more and more pissed at the U.S. for its intransigence; the U.S. works diligently to water down every possible declaration or statement; and finally, the event culminates with everyone making the best of it, signing some weak-ass, vague piece of paper that commits no one to any concrete action.

Did I miss anything? Sound familiar?

As I watched the headlines drift past over the past two weeks, it all seemed to be playing out according to script. Even the purportedly dramatic turnaround by the U.S. on the last day was about agreeing to something it had no reason at all to oppose; the final document still contained no defined, measurable targets.

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Again, the story was the U.S. using its power to block progress. Feh. It’s depressing. If you want more detailed descriptions of how the events unfolded, here are a few things to read:

Reuters has a rundown of the highlights and lowlights. Among the latter is this:

"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," Angus Friday, chair of the Alliance of Small Island states, said when talks wound up late on Friday.

John Quiggen argues, contra many other commentators, that Bali was an overall win for the planet, particularly in light of the fact that the Bush administration participated. He points out that despite the lack of hard targets, the following was achieved:

• Agreement in principle on a 2050 target of halving emissions
• Agreement to negotiate a binding deal in 2009, when Bush will be gone, and short-term targets back on the table
• Agreement to provide assistance to developing countries for both mitigation and adaptation
• Agreement by China to pursue emissions-cutting actions that are “measurable, reportable and verifiable.”

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David Sassoon brings us an eyewitness report of the dramatic final negotiations.

At Dot Earth, Andy Revkin has a straightforward account of what the meetings produced, and also a fascinating collection of reactions to Bali from various and sundry folks who were there. There’s a lot of bitterness toward the U.S. in those comments, as you’d expect. If you read nothing else, at least read the first one, from Thomas J. Goreau of the Global Coral Reef Alliance. He says:

In Bali the Island Nations took the moral lead. But we were opposed by the world richest and most powerful countries, a coalition of oil producers and coal burners. The US, with the backing of Canada, and Japan, refused to consider any limits on their rights to burn fossil fuels. The Arab oil producing states tried incessantly to block every initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And, with the covert backing of the US, China, India, and Russia claimed that any limitations on their right to pollute our atmosphere was a plot to keep them from developing using the same destructive dirty methods as the western countries. The EU, who we counted on, backed down to the dirty polluters in order to achieve any sort of consensus.

That China and India, with their thousands of years of advanced civilization and science, should have fallen for this instead of leading the way towards cleaner sustainable development paths, is truly sad. And by placing their short sighted greed, ignorance, and stupidity first, the unholy polluting coalition of oil producers and coal burners has told the world that they don’t care who else they hurt by continuing their dirty addiction, killing reefs and drowning islands and coasts, and imperiling millions in poor countries.

Even worse, they have shown that they do not care for the rights of future generations, not even of their own people. That is why this shameful agreement is a capital crime against the environment that must be undone as soon as the Bush regime leaves office.

Seen other good stuff on Bali around? Leave it in comments.