NUSA DUA, Indonesia - Delegates from nearly 190 countries emerged from a final 24 hours of bruising negotiations yesterday with an agreement on a new framework for tackling global warming, one that for the first time calls on both the industrialized world and rapidly developing nations to commit themselves to measurable, verifiable steps.
The deal, which will form the basis for a two-year, United Nations-sponsored process aimed at forging a binding international climate pact by the end of 2009, could transform the way rich and poor nations work together to preserve a rapidly warming Earth, observers said.
But it also postponed many tough decisions and provided more incentives than penalties when it comes to addressing global warming.
The consensus document was accepted by acclamation after an acrimonious confrontation between the U.S. delegates and leaders of developing nations, who accused Washington of pressing them for commitments while refusing to make its own.
Finally, after a succession of delegates lambasted the American position, the U.S. delegation agreed to language pledging industrialized countries to provide technological and financial aid to poorer nations, including the burgeoning economies of China, India and Brazil.
In a session marked by high drama and temporary setbacks, the developing nations also agreed to take specific steps to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions with the assistance of wealthier nations.
"In terms of the future, Bali has delivered what it needed to do," said a visibly exhausted and relieved U.N. climate chief Yvo de Boer in a final news conference last night. "That road forward is ambitious, it is transparent, and it is flexible."
Bush administration officials, who fought vigorously to keep mentions of specific emissions targets out of the document, said they were pleased with the result. The agreement will guide negotiators as they seek an accord outlining how deeply industrialized countries should cut emissions between 2012 and 2016, after commitments made under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol expire. The United States never accepted that pact.
"We, in coming here to Bali, have not foreclosed options," said Paula Dobriansky, U.S. undersecretary for democracy and global affairs. "We have our work cut out for us. There's a real need to look at the developed countries and the developing countries, especially the major emerging economies, and pull together on behalf of the planet."
The consensus here came only after two weeks of tense and emotional discussions that included last-minute exhortations by former Vice President Al Gore and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and the final hostile confrontation in which the developing nations chastised the United States for not, in their view, doing its part.
Despite tough bargaining that lies ahead to produce an actual treaty, a number of participants said the conference's success in reaching a compromise highlighted the reality that leaders no longer feel they can afford to ignore public concern over global warming.
"As we saw in the room today, the political price for blocking things has come up in recent months," said Connie Hedegaard, the Danish climate and energy minister, whose government will host the 2009 treaty talks.
The Bali session nearly collapsed after Dobriansky told the delegates that the United States was "not willing to accept" language calling on industrialized nations to deliver "measurable, reportable and verifiable" assistance. Her comments sparked a stunning round of boos and hisses from the audience and sharp rebukes from representatives of developing countries.
Marthinus van Schalkwyk, South Africa's minister of environmental affairs and tourism, called Dobriansky's comments "unwelcome" and asked why Washington was not doing more after leaders from emerging economies had dropped their resistance to being held accountable for taking steps to reduce their emissions.
"If you cannot lead, leave it to the rest of us. Get out of the way," declared Kevin Conrad, Papua New Guinea's ambassador for climate change.
In many ways, the Bali "road map" agreement marks a turning point in how the North and South will seek to curb rising greenhouse-gas emissions, participants and observers said. Rapidly industrialized nations such as China and Brazil pledged to account for their global warming contributions as long as developed nations provide them with clean-energy technology and bolster their ability to respond to the impact of climate change.
By contrast, the Kyoto Protocol, which would be replaced by the still-to-be-negotiated pact, exempted emerging economies from any climate obligations, even though they are poised to overtake industrialized nations in greenhouse-gas emissions.
The agreement also establishes a mechanism for paying tropical nations to preserve their rain forests and calls for expanding financial aid for countries struggling to adapt to climate change.
While the Bush administration made some concessions, it also scored a key victory by eliminating explicit language calling on industrialized countries to cut their emissions 25 to 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020, a high priority for the European Union.
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