Assessing the aftermath of international climate change negotiations always puts me in mind of the twentieth century Chinese leader Zhou Enlai's famous reponse to an inquiry about the impact of the French Revolution: "It's too early to tell".
The fallout from Bali has adopted a model now familiar to anyone who has followed the tortuous history of the Kyoto Protocol and attempts to agree a successor: optimists hail an "historic" moment, while pessimists complain that once again nothing solid has been agreed. Meanwhile, businesses are once again left to cope with a series of equivocal statements that suggest that a new global framework designed to curb carbon emissions is on the cards but fail to give anyone a truly solid picture of what that framework will look like.
The fact is Bali has achieved everything it was ever going to achieve. This was always going to be a meeting about future meetings and the environmentalists and European politicians who worked themselves up into a frenzy of excitement over the prospect of getting emission targets agreed were always going to be left disappointed.
The conference set out to agree a timetable for future negotiations and it achieved exactly that. Moreover, it also undertook some much needed house cleaning, delivering reforms to the struggling CDM, finally recognising the importance of tackling deforestation, and giving the UN clearer direction in how it will address adaptation and technology transfer.
The White House may have poured cold water on the whole agreement by barely waiting until the applause in the convention centre had died out to voice its "serious concerns" and issue a thinly veiled threat to abandon future talks if China and India are not tied into deep cuts.
But that cannot detract from the fact that the US has signed up to an international climate change agreement for the first time and committed to the agreed timetable. There are still plenty of doubts surrounding the post-Kyoto framework, but a deal in 2009 looks more likely now than it did a week ago.
So the pessimists are in the wrong. But then again so too are the optimists.
The idea that just because there will be a new incumbent in the White House by the time the negotiations reach their climax everything will be OK is an absurdly upbeat assessment. The presidential candidates almost all appear greener than Bush but they have given themselves plenty of wriggle room when it comes to climate change legislation and there is no guarantee a new president is going to sign up to a Kyoto successor in a blaze of first term.
Furthermore, there is hardly any limit to the amount of havoc the Bush administration can wreak as the lame duck presidency limps towards 2009. Given Bush's record on climate change it is not unrealistic to imagine US officials returning to their default role as a negotiating roadblock over the next two years, imposing damaging delays on the Bali-agreed timetable. By the time a greener president is elected the whole process could already be on the brink of collapse.
All of this means that it is a case of as you where for business leaders. The business case for investment in cutting energy use remains strong, the carbon market is gaining strength and will become increasingly influential despite remaining flawed in several key areas, and risk assessors will continue to warn that an increase in environmental legislation and green taxes remains highly likely.
However, the critical detailed information needed to inform green investments - such as how much a tonne of carbon emissions will cost, what carbon targets will be agreed, what penalties will be in place for firms that breach them, how different geographies will be effected by green regulations, and which technologies will be subsidised by governments - remains two years away at best.
There are still plenty of reasons to be confident that solid successor to Kyoto will be agreed in 2009, but at the same time any Chinese leader commenting in 200 years time on whether the Bali conference was a success or not may sadly be doing so from a coastal resort in the Himalayas.
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