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There’s been extensive coverage of the newest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Like the three reports proceeding it, this one warns of dire consequences should action not be taken immediately to combat climate change. The timing of the release is no accident. Next month, delegates from hundreds of UN member states will meet in Bali to discuss a new climate change convention to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. The contents of the report, says the Washington Post, is “key ammunition” for negotiators at Bali.

Lest people have unrealistic expectation from what will come out of the talks, the negotiations in Bali will be what they call a “process meeting.” There will be no document to point to after the delegates go home which spells out specific obligations under a post-Kyoto climate change framework. Rather, the significance of the meeting is that it will lay out the entire road map for how negotiations over the next three years will proceed.

The path set forth in next month’s meeting will be how the climate change debate is framed over the next three years and beyond. So what to do if a member state is somewhat cold to the idea of say, an emission reduction target of 80% for developed countries by 2050, with a 1990 base year? At least for now, disputes over specific proposals should not make much of a difference to the outcome of Bali, which is more a discussion about future discussions than actual substantive policy negotiations.

Still, the process questions are hugely important. And UN Dispatch will be in Bali, covering the discussion from the ground with frequent updates throughout the two week long meeting, which begins December 3.

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