Yes, the talks may have failed to produce any sort of agreement, but should that really be considered a failure?
There are two big problems with the whole thing:
1) The scientific evidence for the enhanced greenhouse effect is questionable, at best.
2) The conference wasn't about the environment at all.
Let me go into these two points in more detail:
As for the first point, everybody involved is begging the question: is the earth in fact warming, and if so, is it human activity that is causing it? Let's see...
Usually, the surface record is pointed to as proof that the world is warming. The surface record is a statistical composite of all the temperature readings from weather stations around the world. But, how accurate is it?
Not particularly, as it turns out. The biggest problem with it is what is known as the 'Urban Heat Island effect'. What is happening is that human-built structures absorb heat during the day, and re-radiate it at night, causing a net increase in the temperature recorded by any weather station in the vincinity. It is to be noted that this is a local effect, and the total effect it has globally is negligible (more on this later).
Indeed, many weather stations are in urban areas, and many that started out in urban areas are now being encroached upon by urban sprawl. Rural weather stations by and large do not show any warming trends.
Weather stations are also tempermental beasts. They are notoriously sensitive to placement, and to the configuration of any natural or man-made features in the area.
The surface record can also be vulnerable to political factors. For example, in the old Soviet Union, the central government allocated coal to the various regions based on how cold the region was. Problem was, they never allocated enough. Therefore, the authorities in various regions underreported the temperature, so that they would be allocated more coal, producing an artificial cooling in the data. When the Soviet Union broke up, there was no longer any reason to misreport the temperature, so they stopped. It therefore looked like there was a large warming in this area in the early 90's, even though there wasn't.
There are also no weather stations in the oceans. Consequently, there is little data for the ocean areas, even though they make up the majority of the earth's surface.
But, there's no need to rely on the surface record. Radiosonde data, and weather sattelite data also exist. Both show no significant warming trend since the late 70's.
Global warming advocates also like to point to their computer models, which invariably predict all sorts of warming. The problem is that these models predict that the warming should be most pronounced in the arctic and the antarctic, but neither area shows any warming.
The biggest problem with the models is that they make a questionable assumption. A little background is in order here. Carbon dioxide is actually a very weak greenhouse gas, and even the people who make these models state that the total warming due to CO2 is barely perceptible. The major greenhouse gas is in fact water vapour.
By analogy, consider a computer that costs $1000, and a cable that costs $10. If the cable were to double in price, to $20, it wouldn't significantly raise the price of a system consisting of a computer and a cable, right?
Well, water vapour is analagous to the computer, and CO2 is analagous to the cable. Increasing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere wouldn't significantly contribute to global warming.
However, the people who make the computer models posited a positive feedback mechanism whereby increasing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere causes the amount of water vapour to increase as well. The problem is that there's no scientific evidence for this. In fact, the evidence seems to be against it. Consequently, all of the computer models are flawed -- they overestimate the climate change.
But, there's scientific consensus that the enhanced greenhouse effect is real, right?
A petition has been circulated among climatologists and other related scientists, stating that the science behind the Kyoto Protocol is fundamentally flawed. It has been signed by over 17,000 scientists. That doesn't seem like consensus to me -- or, if it is, then it's consensus for the opposite point of view.
A good summary of the case against the enhanced greenhouse effect can be seen here.
So, the science looks pretty weak. What was the conference all about, anyway?
Economics, pure and simple. The environment wasn't the point of the conference at all, but merely an excuse for the various governments to try to come to an agreement which would benefit them by crippling other country's economies with strict and pointless environmental regulations. It was all about trying to get a competetive advantage.
So, citizens of both Europe and the US should be thankful that they failed.