Climate deal deadline set

Nations to negotiate plan by 2009 to halve emissions

December 16, 2007|By Laurie Goering | Laurie Goering,Chicago Tribune

NUSA DUA, Indonesia -- In a tumultuous final session at international climate talks in which the U.S. delegates were booed, the world's nations committed yesterday to negotiating a new deal by 2009 that would set the world on a course toward halving emissions of heat-trapping gases by 2050.

The United States, diplomatically isolated and worried about being blamed for the expected collapse of the talks yesterday, was forced to join the world in agreeing that developing countries should be compensated for pushing ahead to cut their greenhouse gas emissions, a major demand of developing economic giants such as China and India.

The United States also agreed that it would participate in plans to cut emissions driving climate change by more than half by 2050. But it managed to avoid committing to difficult shorter-term targets that the Bush administration sees as too economically onerous.

Developing nations that are fast cutting their tropical forests, particularly Brazil and Indonesia, got a new program that will encourage richer nations to pay them to protect their forests. And some of the world's poorest nations, most at threat from climate change and least able to deal with the threat, got a promise of funding to help them adapt to a warmer world.

For a deal widely criticized as weak for its lack of firm international targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, analysts said, the Bali agreement made remarkable strides, particularly in bringing developing countries toward participation in global-emissions cuts and the U.S. a step back from international isolation over climate change.

"This creates the incentives for developing countries to take on new measures. That's important," said Andrew Deutz, a senior policy adviser with the Nature Conservancy.

Yesterday's agreement in Bali, a first step in a two-year process of building a new international climate treaty by 2009, capped a day of intensely emotional negotiations that included the U.N. climate chief leaving the negotiating room in tears, the president of Indonesia rushing to the conference to try to break a deadlock, and the U.S. delegation unexpectedly agreeing, in a last-minute compromise, to support technology transfers and other funding for developing nations that cut greenhouse gas emissions.

How much those programs might cost will remain unclear until details are hashed out in later phases of negotiations.

"We want a road map forward. We want a success here in Bali," Paula Dobriansky, head of the U.S. negotiating team, told delegates to the meeting, to thunderous applause. "We want to do our part as part of the effort forward."

The agreement, designed to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012, calls for developed countries including the United States to take "measurable, reportable and verifiable nationally appropriate mitigation commitments or actions" including setting specific targets for emissions reductions.

The deal, at U.S. insistence, however, did not lay out specific international goals or targets.

Developing countries, in turn, agreed to take "action" on reductions of their own, while allowing for "sustainable development." But they won a key concession from richer countries to have such efforts "supported by technology and enabled by financing and capacity-building."

Analysts called the deal a breakthrough both in terms of developing countries agreeing for the first time that they had a responsibility to cut emissions, and the U.S. agreeing to join other developed nations in financially supporting such efforts.

"This is the strongest agreement we could have reached with the Bush administration at the table," said Philip Clapp, deputy managing director for the Pew Environmental Group.

Now, "the incoming U.S. president will be the real determiner of where the bottom line is" in terms of eventual U.S. emission cuts.

Laurie Goering writes for the Chicago Tribune. The New York Times contributed to this article.

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