BALI, Indonesia - World leaders overcame bitter divisions Saturday and agreed to reach a new deal on fighting global warming by 2009, turning a corner in mankind's race to stave off environmental disaster caused by rising temperatures.
The contentious, two-week U.N. climate conference on the resort island of Bali ended with the United States, facing angry criticism from other delegations, relenting in its opposition to a request from developing nations for more technological help fighting climate change.
The new deal does not commit countries to specific actions against global warming. It simply sets an agenda and schedule for negotiators to find ways to reduce pollution and help poor countries adapt to environmental changes by speeding up the transfer of technology and financial assistance.
Despite an aggressive EU-led campaign to include specific emissions reduction targets for industrial nations — by 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 — the final road map has none. The guidelines were eliminated after the U.S., joined by Japan and others, argued that targets should come at the end of the two-year negotiations, not the beginning.
The agreement, by consensus among some 190 nations, was nonetheless hailed as a crucial development in the world's struggle to come to grips with global warming, which scientists say will lead to widespread drought, floods, higher sea levels and worsening storms.
"This is a real breakthrough, a real opportunity for the international community to successfully fight climate change," said U.N. climate chief Yvo de Boer. "Parties have recognized the urgency of action on climate change." Environmentalists welcomed the final agreement, though some complained the document lacked specific emissions targets and did not include strong commitments for rich countries to provide poorer ones with green technology.
"The people of the world wanted more. They wanted binding targets," said Marcelo Furtado of Greenpeace Brazil. Climate policy analyst Eliot Diringer, of Washington's Pew center, looked on the positive side. "It puts no one on the hook right now for emissions reductions," he said. "What's important, though, is that it lets no one off the hook either."
Now the U.N. will embark on at least two years of talks to fashion a more effective and widely accepted successor to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The process could determine for years to come how well the world will cut emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.The roadmap is intended to lead to a more inclusive, effective successor to Kyoto, which commits 37 industrialized nations to cut greenhouse gases by an average of 5 percent between 2008 and 2012.
President Bush has argued that the cuts required by Kyoto would hurt the U.S. economy and unfairly exempts China and other emerging economies.The marathon negotiations to reach the Bali accord appeared on the brink of collapse several times.Just when it appeared agreement was within reach Saturday morning, developing nations argued that their need for technological help from rich nations and other issues needed greater recognition in the document. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addressed the group, urging them to overcome their differences.
In an apparent resolution, India and others suggested minor adjustments to the text, backed by the EU, that encouraged monitoring of technological transfer to make sure rich countries were meeting that need.But the United States objected, calling for further talks and drawing loud boos and sharp floor rebukes. "If you are not willing to lead, then get out of the way!" shouted one delegate. Others pleaded with the head of the U.S. delegation, Undersecretary of State Paula Dobriansky, to reverse herself. "We would like to beg them," appealed Uganda's environment minister, Jesca Eriyo. Dobriansky's subsequent acceptance of the changes triggered applause — one of the few times that a U.S. action had won public praise at a conference studded with accusations that Washington was blocking progress. She told reporters after the adoption the appeals convinced the U.S. delegation that developing nations did not intend to dilute their commitment to take steps to stop global warming.
"After hearing the comments ... we were assured by their words to act," Dobriansky said. "So with that, we felt it was important that we go forward."
At one point, China also angrily accused the U.N. of pressuring nations to sign off on the text, even as sideline negotiations continued — triggering an emotional spat that ended when a tearful and exhausted de Boer was temporarily escorted out of the hall. For developing countries, the final document instructs negotiators to consider incentives and other means to encourage poorer nations to curb — voluntarily — growth in their emissions.