The Heat Is Online

158 Countries -- Minus the US -- Agree on Interim Targets

Industrial Nations Agree Step to New Climate Pact, Sept. 3, 2007


VIENNA - Industrial nations agreed on Friday to consider stiff 2020 goals for cutting greenhouse gases in a small step towards a new long-term pact to fight climate change.


About 1,000 delegates at the Aug 27-31 UN talks set greenhouse gas emissions cuts of between 25 and 40 percent below 1990 levels as a non-binding starting point for rich nations' work on a new pact to extend the UN's Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012.


"These conclusions...indicate what industrialised countries must do to show leadership," said Yvo de Boer, head of the UN Climate Change Secretariat, welcoming a compromise deal on the range of needed cuts.


"But more needs to be done by the global community," he told a news conference at the end of the 158-nation talks. Many countries want to broaden Kyoto to include targets for outsiders such as the United States and developing nations.


Delegates agreed that the 25-40 percent range "provides useful initial parameters for the overall level of ambition of further emissions reductions".


It fell short of calls by the European Union and developing nations for the range to be called a stronger "guide" for future work. Pacific Island states said that even stiffer cuts may be needed to avert rising seas that could wash them off the map.

Nations including Russia, Japan and Canada had objected to the idea of a "guide", reckoning it might end up binding them to make sweeping economic shifts away from fossil fuels, widely seen as a main cause of global warming.


Delegates in the Vienna conference hall applauded for 10 seconds after adopting the compromise text by consensus.




"This is a small step," Artur Runge-Metzger, head of the EU Commission delegation, told Reuters. "We wanted bigger steps. But I think the 25-40 percent will be viewed as a starting point, an anchor for further work."


The UN's climate panel said in a study in May 2007 that rich nations would have to cut emissions by between 25 and 40 percent to help avert the worst impacts of climate change from droughts, storms, heatwaves and rising seas.


"The process is moving along," said Leon Charles from Grenada, who chaired the final session. "By and large we have achieved our objectives".


De Boer said that the decisions might help environment ministers who will meet in Bali, Indonesia, in December, to agree to launch formal negotiations on a new global climate treaty to be decided by the end of 2009.


"This meeting has put the Bali conference in the starting blocks," de Boer said.

Environmentalists also hailed the conclusions as a step in the right direction. "The road to Bali is clear but it's time to switch gears," said Red Constantino of Greenpeace.


"We have a clear message from most governments that they will take seriously" scientists' calls for deep cuts, said Hans Verolme, climate expert of the WWF.

Kyoto binds 36 industrial nations to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by at least 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12 in a first bid to contain warming.


The United States has not ratified Kyoto, rating it too costly and unfair for excluding 2012 goals for developing states, and thus was not involved in Friday's session. President George W. Bush has separately called a meeting of major emitters in Washington on Sept. 27-28 to work out future cuts.



Agreement Reached on Greenhouse Gas Curb

The Associated Press, Aug. 31, 2007


VIENNA, Austria -- Negotiators from 158 countries reached basic agreement Friday on rough targets aimed at getting some of the world's biggest polluters to reduce emissions of the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

A weeklong U.N. climate conference concluded that industrialized countries should strive to cut emissions by 25 percent to 40 percent of their 1990 levels by 2020. Experts said that target would serve as a loose guide for a major international climate summit to be held in December in Bali, Indonesia.

"We have reached broad agreement on the main issues," said Leon Charles, a negotiator from Grenada who helped oversee the Vienna talks.

Delegates worked into Friday evening to overcome resistance from several countries -- including Canada, Japan and Russia -- that had held up negotiations because they preferred a more open approach rather than setting emissions targets.

The 2020 targets are not binding, but they were seen as an important signal that industrialized nations are serious about slashing the amount of carbon dioxide and other dangerous gases to try to avert the most catastrophic consequences of global warming.

Friday's agreement sought to ease concerns that the emissions target might be too ambitious for some nations, noting that efforts to cut back on airborne pollutants are "determined by national circumstances and evolve over time."

But it made clear that greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced to "very low levels" to guard against potentially deadly flooding, drought and other fallout.

"Countries have been able to reassess the big picture of what is needed by identifying the key building blocks for an effective response to climate change," said Yvo de Boer, the U.N.'s top climate official.

De Boer said the agreement doesn't let developing countries off the hook.

"Even if industrialized countries do this, it will only be a contribution to the global effort," he told reporters.

The Bali conference will try to forge a new global agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions after 2012, when the 1997 Kyoto Protocol expires. The Kyoto accord requires 35 industrial nations to cut their emissions 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.

Friday's agreement does not include the U.S., which has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol.

Environmental groups stressed that developed countries need to take urgent measures to keep Earth's temperature from rising more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit -- a limit scientists contend is critical to prevent catastrophic flooding and other deadly weather patterns.

"They need to be guided by the potential calamity," said Angela Anderson, vice president for climate programs at the Washington-based National Environmental Trust.

Failing to cut emissions by at least 30 percent of 1990 levels by 2020 "would condemn millions to disease, water shortages and misery in the developing world," said Red Constantino, an official with Greenpeace International.

WWF International called Friday's agreement a "safe range for emission reductions," but cautioned that it would have to be put into action. "In Bali, they will have to formally adopt this," it said in a statement.

European Union officials had pressed hard for the 2020 targets. The EU already has pledged to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other harmful gases by 20 percent by that year, and by another 10 percent if other industrialized nations join in.

Yvo de Boer, the U.N.'s top climate official, said some developing countries -- including small island nations most vulnerable to climate change as polar ice caps melt and sea levels rise -- were pressing industrialized nations for even deeper emissions cuts.

Their negotiators, he said, were acting out of a sense of urgency and a fear that "they won't have a country to represent" if climate change is not slowed.