As the curtain fell at the end of the two-day meeting on climate change here Thursday, participants from the world's 16 major economies plus the United Nations seemed to believe that the U.S.-sponsored process had improved the U.S. image on the issue.
The Hawaii meeting is undoubtedly a major event on climate change after the recent UN climate conference in Bali, Indonesia. Yet, people are still wondering what role the United States will play in post-Bali negotiations.
To many political analysts, the Hawaii meeting came as an important chance for Washington to mend international fences after it faced sharp criticism in Bali for its less-than-cooperative stance.
"The U.S. has reached the lowest point I've ever seen" when it comes to worldwide perception regarding environmental issues, said Philip Clapp, deputy managing director of Pew Environment Group, are search and advocacy group.
"In the final session of Bali, we were abandoned even by our closest allies," he said.
One major incentive for the Bush administration in hosting the Hawaii meeting, many analysts believed, is to show the world that it really wants to do more to address global warming.
If that is a key objective for the Bush administration, the Hawaii meeting may have achieved the effect, observers noted.
Brice LaLonde, France's ambassador for climate change, said the new U.S. attitude is "a good start," though "we want more" from the United States.
"Now we are seeing that the United States is discussing the matter," he said.
"We welcome this move. Of course we are waiting for the next step, which would be that the United States will also have a goal in reducing its greenhouse gases, joining in that way all developed countries."
"We had a very constructive debate," said Matthias Machnig of the German Environment Ministry.
KEY ISSUES REMAIN UNSOLVED
Participants of the Hawaii meeting called for rapid implementation of the Bali roadmap and the Bush administration said the major economies process is actually supplementing the post-Bali negotiations.
The Bali roadmap is an agreement among more than 180 participating countries to form the world's second climate-change mitigation treaty by the end of 2009, which will replace the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to cut emissions that expires in 2012.
Joe Stanislaw, chief executive officer of the JAStanislaw Group, an advisory firm for investment in energy and technology, said one of the major achievements at the Bali conference is that it finally got the United States to sign up.
Concerns over the U.S. willingness to participate have been high for a long time, as the nation remains the only major industrial country in the world yet to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, after Australia signed the treaty in December.
Its resistance to embrace mandatory pollution reduction targets has also met with widespread criticism.
While pledging to contribute to the post-Bali talks, the United States defended its stance on the two issues at the Hawaii meeting.
That prompted participating countries at the meeting to urge the Bush administration to take more steps in that direction.
For the moment, however, there are no signs that the U.S. government will change that position soon.
There are even suspicions that the Bush administration's burst of zeal in climate change is a political game to postpone U.S. adoption of mandatory greenhouse emission cuts.
CAUTIOUS WELCOME FROM UN
Despite the Bush administration's claim that the major economies process is aiming to advance post-Bali talks within the UN framework, UN officials seemed cautious.
Halldor Thorgeirsson, director of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), remained silent at a press conference after the Hawaii meeting, in contrast to the upbeat remarks by U.S. officials.
Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the UNFCCC, used the words "could" and "if" to express his expectation for the meeting.
"The process could make a contribution to the ambitious goals of the UN negotiations," he told the opening session of the meeting Wednesday.
"If countries represented at the meeting manage to take the Bali decisions to a next stage, process can be accelerated and the ambitious deadline of 2009 can actually be met," he added.
Another uncertainty about the post-Bali U.S. role is that the Bush administration has only one year left in office.
Although all major presidential contenders have more popular stances on climate change, the fate of the major economies process remains uncertain in post-Bush era.
"There's an interesting calculus going on for other countries (that have to decide) if they want to take seriously the administration during its last year, or if they want to hold out for a more engaged administration," said Bryan Mignone, an analyst working for U.S. Senate Energy Committee.