South Africa (AP) — A U.N. climate conference reached a hard-fought
agreement Sunday on a complex and far-reaching program meant to set a
new course for the global fight against climate change for the coming
194-party conference agreed to start negotiations on a new accord that
would put all countries under the same legal regime enforcing
commitments to control greenhouse gases. It would take effect by 2020 at
deal also set up the bodies that will collect, govern and distribute
tens of billions of dollars a year for poor countries. Other documents
in the package lay out rules for monitoring and verifying emissions
reductions, protecting forests, transferring clean technologies to
developing countries and scores of technical issues.
only industrial countries have legally binding emissions targets under
the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. Those commitments expire next year, but they
will be extended for another five years under the accord adopted
Sunday—a key demand by developing countries seeking to preserve the only
existing treaty regulating carbon emissions.
proposed Durban Platform offered answers to problems that have
bedeviled global warming negotiations for years about sharing the
responsibility for controlling carbon emissions and helping the world’s
poorest and most climate-vulnerable nations cope with changing forces of
United States was a reluctant supporter, concerned about agreeing to
join an international climate system that likely would find much
opposition in the U.S. Congress.
is a very significant package. None of us likes everything in it.
Believe me, there is plenty the United States is not thrilled about,”
said U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern. But the package captured important
advances that would be undone if it is rejected, he told the delegates.
deal’s language left some analysts warning that the wording left huge
loopholes for countries to avoid tying their emissions to legal
constraints, and noted that there was no mention of penalties. “They
haven’t reached a real deal,” said Samantha Smith, of WWF International.
“They watered things down so everyone could get on board.”
criticized the package—as did many developing countries in the
debate—for failing to address what they called the most urgent issue, to
move faster and deeper in cutting carbon emissions.
good news is we avoided a train wreck,” said Alden Meyer, recalling
predictions a few days ago of a likely failure. “The bad news is that we
did very little here to affect the emissions curve.”
say that unless those emissions—chiefly carbon dioxide from power
generation and industry—level out and reverse within a few years, the
Earth will be set on a possibly irreversible path of rising temperatures
that lead to ever greater climate catastrophes.
breakthrough capped 13 days of hectic negotiations that ran a day and a
half over schedule, including two round-the-clock days that left
negotiators bleary-eyed and stumbling with words. Delegates were seen
nodding off in the final plenary session, despite the high drama, barely
constrained emotions and uncertainty whether the talks would end in
triumph or total collapse.
The nearly fatal issue involved the legal nature of the accord that will govern carbon emissions by the turn of the next decade.
plan put forward by the European Union sought strong language that
would bind all countries equally to carry out their emissions
led the objectors, saying it wanted a less rigorous option. Environment
Minister Jayanthi Natarajan argued that the EU proposal undermined the
20-year-old principle that developing countries have less responsibility
than industrial nations that caused the global warming problem through
200 years of pollution.
“The equity of burden-sharing cannot be shifted,” she said in angry tones.
negotiator Xie Zhenhua gave heated support for the Indians, saying the
industrial nations have not lived up to their promises while China and
other developing countries had launched ambitious green programs.
are doing whatever we should do. We are doing things you are not doing.
What qualifies you to say things like this,” he said, raising his voice
and waving his arm.
debate ran past midnight and grew increasingly tense as speakers lined
up almost evenly on one side or the other. Conference president Maite
Nkoana-Mashabane, who is South Africa’s foreign minister, called a
recess and told the EU and Indian delegates to put their heads together
and come up with a compromise formula.
after weeks of unsuccessful effort to resolve the issue,
Nkoana-Mashabane gave Natarajan and European Commissioner Connie
Hedegaard 10 minutes to find a solution, with hundreds of delegates
milling around them.
They needed 50 minutes.
package gave new life to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, whose carbon
emissions targets expire next year and apply only to industrial
countries. A separate document obliges major developing nations like
China and India, excluded under Kyoto, to accept legally binding
emissions targets in the future.
the two documents overhaul a system designed 20 years ago that divide
the world into a handful of wealthy countries facing legal obligations
to reduce emissions, and the rest of the world which could undertake
voluntary efforts to control carbon.
European Union, the primary bloc falling under the Kyoto Protocol’s
reduction commitments, said an extension of its targets was conditional
on major developing countries also accepting limits with the same legal
accountability. The 20th century division of the globe into two unequal
parts was invalid in today’s world, the EU said.
difficult clause in the documents called on countries to complete
negotiations within three years on “a protocol, another legal
instrument, or a legal outcome” that would succeed the Kyoto Protocol.
It would need about five years for ratification.
the EU objected to the late addition of the phrase “legal outcome,”
which it said would allow countries to wriggle out of commitments. The
final compromise, reached at 3:30 a.m., changed the final option to “an
agreed outcome with legal force.”
Climate deal doesn’t make things worse…or better
SOURCE: The Associated Press