UN climate plan agreed
US, EU, developing nations reach compromise on broadly worded 'roadmap'
The Associated Press, Dec. 15, 2007
BALI, Indonesia - A U.N. climate conference adopted a plan Saturday to negotiate a new global warming pact, after the United States lifted opposition to a call by developing nations for technological help to battle rising temperatures.
The adoption came after marathon negotiations overnight, which first settled a battle between Europe and the
Upcoming talks, to be completed in 2009, may help determine for years to come how well the world can control climate change, and how severe global warming's consequences will be.
That guideline's specific numbers were eliminated from the text, but an indirect reference was inserted instead.
The negotiations snagged again early Saturday over demands by developing nations that their need for technological help from rich nations and other issues receive greater recognition in the document launching the negotiations.
But after delegates criticized the
"I think we have come a long way here," said Paula Dobriansky, head of the
The sudden reversal was met with rousing applause.
In a U.N. process requiring consensus, both sides won and lost.
The broadly worded "roadmap," in any event, doesn't itself guarantee any level of emissions reductions or any international commitment by any country -- only a commitment to negotiate.
As for developing countries, the final document instructs negotiators to consider incentives and other means to encourage poorer nations to curb, on a voluntary basis, growth in their emissions. The explosive growth of greenhouse emissions in
The Bush administration instead favors a voluntary approach -- each country deciding how it can contribute -- in place of internationally negotiated and legally binding commitments.
© 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Nations Forge Pact on Global Warming, Climate Change
By Juliet Eilperin. The
The compromise, forged mid-day Saturday after a series of around-the-clock negotiations involving 187 nations, bridged the differences between Bush administration officials' insistence that rapidly industrializing nations do their part to address global warming and the developing world's call for greater climate action by
Under the deal, which will provide the framework for negotiating a new global warming treaty over the next two years, developed nations must take binding "commitments or actions" to cut their emissions, and poorer nations must also seek to reduce their contributions to human-induced climate change.
"This is a real breakthrough, a real opportunity for the international community to successfully fight climate change," said Indonesian Environment Minister and President of the conference, Rachmat Witoelar. "Parties have recognized the urgency of action on climate change and have now provided the political response to what scientists have been telling us is needed."
But the agreement only came together after the talks nearly collapsed Saturday afternoon when Undersecretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky told the delegates that the United States was "not willing to accept" language calling on industrialized nations to produce "measurable, reportable and verifiable" assistance to developing countries.
Those comments sparked a round of boos and hisses from the audience -- a rare event in the context of a U.N. negotiation -- and a sharp rebuke from an array of developing countries.
"It has never happened before," van Schalkwyk said of his and other developing countries' willingness to be judged on their climate efforts. "A year ago it would have been unthinkable."
In rapid succession, other developing nations also chastised the
"If you cannot lead, leave it to the rest of us. Get out of the way," said Kevin Conrad,
Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the standoff between American and other nations helped inspire the developing world to "pull together to keep the process alive before it sunk.
"I've been in this business for twenty years, and I've never seen a drama like that in the U.N. process," he added.
Afterward, administration officials said today they were pleased with the outcome. They had succeeded in one goal, eliminating language calling on industrialized countries to cut their emissions 25 to 40 percent by 2020 -- a high priority for the European Union -- and said they now have major emitters such as Brazil, China and South Africa willing to engage more aggressively in the push to reduce global warming pollution.
"We needed to establish here in Bali, through the negotiations, that we're launching a shared commitment to cutting greenhouse gases," James L. Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, told reporters. "We now have one of the broadest negotiating agendas on the question of climate change."
European leaders said that while they had hoped for a stronger document to steer the climate talks that will culminate in
The European Parliament issued a statement praising EU delegates for "having secured the best politically viable outcome here at
And while German environment minister Sigmar Gabriel suggested earlier in the week he and others might boycott future meetings of the parallel climate talks President Bush launched in September, his spokesman Michael Schroeren said today that
"We are very interested in making the Major Economies Meeting a success," Schroeren said, referring to Bush's climate talks. He added that by demonstrating flexibility during today's negotiations, the
David Doniger, climate policy director for the advocacy group Natural Resources Defense Council, called the
The agreement also seeks to help poorer nations reduce their emissions by easing the transfer of clean energy technology and would bolster their ability to adapt to such climate change impacts as flooding, drought and the spread of disease. The agreement calls for any future climate pact to seek out "new and additional resources" for poor countries struggling to adapt to global warming.
Officials said another aspect of the package, which aims to compensate poor nations in Africa, Asia and
"This really is a watershed moment," said Andrew W. Mitchell, executive director of the Global Canopy Program, a British-based consortium of scientific institutions and conservation groups.
Ned Helme, president of the D.C.-based Center for Clean Air Policy, said Norway's recent commitment to allocate $500 million a year toward protecting forests helped ease developing countries' concern that these projects would be used as "carbon credits" by industrialized nations hoping to avoid cutting their own emissions.
"That's real money," Helme said of
Even as politicians and environmental activists welcomed today's agreement, however, they acknowledged it marked just the beginning of an even more difficult negotiating process.
"My team worked so hard to prepare for this, and we suddenly realize that we're going to be working even harder for the next two years," said Hans Verolme, who directs the World Wildlife Fund's climate change program. "This is the beginning of a journey."