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Nations map road ahead, but some hitches remain

BALI, Indonesia - The European Union said today that it supported a compromise proposal on future negotiations for a new global-warming pact, bringing the contentious talks nearer to resolution.

BALI, Indonesia - The European Union said today that it supported a compromise proposal on future negotiations for a new global-warming pact, bringing the contentious talks nearer to resolution.

But a complete agreement was stalled by objections from India and China to parts of the text, and the conference session with all delegates - extended a day in hopes of reaching what would be a landmark international understanding - was briefly suspended.

The two-week conference has been marked by a fierce battle between the EU, which had argued for explicit goals for reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions by 2020, and the United States, which said targets should be determined by two years of future talks.

Humberto Rosa, a Portuguese environment official representing the EU, told delegates the proposal had been brokered in a "good cooperative atmosphere."

"It results from a compromise," he said.

Talks on the document, which lays out the agenda for climate talks leading to a global-warming pact to take effect at the end of 2012, had run through the night.

Delegates were debating how far future negotiations should go in trying to cut emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. After closed-door talks, they reconvened this morning to consider the compromise proposal.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was to arrive later today, either to announce the launching of the "Bali Road Map" negotiations or to try to break any lingering impasse.

The negotiating agenda set at Bali, and the results of two years of negotiations to follow, will help determine for decades to come how well the world can hold down its rising temperatures.

Delegates had sparred for days over the wording of the conference's main decision document. The most contentious point was the EU's push to set a goal of reducing industrial nations' emissions 25 percent to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

Trying to break the deadlock, the conference's president, Indonesian Environment Minister Rachmat Witoelar, proposed revised language that dropped explicit mention of numbers and substituted a reference to a U.N. report suggesting the 25 percent to 40 percent range of cuts.

Witoelar's proposal provided a basis for the long-expected compromise, producing a relatively vague mandate for the two years of negotiations.

As worded, his draft "Bali Road Map" would not guarantee binding commitment by any nation.

On developing countries, including such big emitters as China and India, the draft would instruct negotiators to consider incentives and other means to encourage poorer nations to voluntarily curb growth in their emissions.

U.N. climate chief Yvo De Boer said worldwide public opinion was forcing the more than 180 national delegations to find a way to agree.

"I don't think any politician can afford to walk away from here," he told reporters. Asked if that included the United States, he responded: "Perhaps most of all the United States."

Washington has come under intense criticism in Bali, including from former Vice President Al Gore, over the Bush administration's opposition to mandatory emission cuts. But all parties acknowledged that negotiations could not succeed without the world's leading greenhouse-gas emitter.

The task before the annual U.N. assembly was to launch negotiations on a plan to bring deeper cuts. That plan is to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which requires 37 industrial nations to reduce output of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.

The United States is the only major industrial nation to reject Kyoto, arguing that it would hurt the domestic economy while exempting fast-growing economies.

Washington says it favors a voluntary approach to emission cuts, rather than internationally negotiated and legally binding commitments.

For years, the rest of the world has sought to bring the Americans into the framework of international mandates. But many seem resigned to waiting for a change in the White House after November's election.

In four landmark reports this year, the United Nations' network of climate scientists warned of severe consequences - rising seas, droughts, extreme weather, species extinction and other effects - without sharp cutbacks in emissions of the industrial, transportation and agricultural gases blamed for warming.

To avoid the worst, said the panel, which shared this year's Nobel Peace Prize with Gore, emissions should be cut by 25 percent to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

The Kyoto Protocol nations have accepted that goal, and the numbers were written into early versions of the Bali conference's draft decision statement, not as a binding target, but as a suggestion in the document's preamble.

The U.S. delegation opposed inclusion of such numbers. Negotiator Harlan Watson said they would tend to "drive the negotiations in one direction."

Some accused Washington of trying to wreck future talks.

"The United States in particular is behaving like passengers in first class in a jumbo jet, thinking a catastrophe in economy class won't affect them," said Tony Juniper, a spokesman for a coalition of environmentalists. "If we go down, we go down together, and the United States needs to realize that very quickly."

U.N. conference details and the latest news from Bali: