Ministers huddle where agreement reached in Durban 311 R.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
DURBAN- Climate negotiators agreed a pact on Sunday that would for the
first time force all the biggest polluters to take action on greenhouse
gas emissions, but critics said the action plan was not aggressive
enough to slow the pace of global warming.
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The package of accords
extended the Kyoto Protocol, the only global pact that enforces carbon
cuts, agreed the format of a fund to help poor countries tackle climate
change and mapped out a path to a legally binding agreement on emissions
many small island states and developing nations at risk of being
swamped by rising sea levels and extreme weather said the deal marked
the lowest common denominator possible and lacked the ambition needed to
ensure their survival.
Agreement on the package, reached in the
early hours of Sunday, avoided a collapse of the talks and spared the
blushes of host South Africa, whose stewardship of the two weeks of
often fractious negotiations came under fire from rich and poor nations.
came here with plan A, and we have concluded this meeting with plan A
to save one planet for the future of our children and our grandchildren
to come," said South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane,
who chaired the talks.
"We have made history," she said, bringing
the hammer down on Durban conference, the longest in two decades of UN
Delegates agreed to start work next year on
a new legally binding treaty to cut greenhouse gases to be decided by
2015 and to come into force by 2020.
The process for doing so,
called the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, would "develop a new
protocol, another legal instrument or agreed outcome with legal force"
that would be applicable under the UN climate convention.
phrasing, agreed at a last-ditch huddle in the conference center between
the European Union, India, China and the United States, was used by all
parties to claim victory.
Britain's Energy and Climate Secretary Chris Huhne said the result was "a great success for European diplomacy."
managed to bring the major emitters like the US, India and China into a
roadmap which will secure an overarching global deal," he said.
climate envoy Todd Stern said Washington was satisfied with the
outcome: "We got the kind of symmetry that we had been focused on since
the beginning of the Obama administration. This had all the elements
that we were looking for."
Yet UN climate chief Christiana
Figueres acknowledged the final wording on the legal form a future deal
was ambiguous: "What that means has yet to be decided."
A UN spokesman said the final texts might not all be publicly available for some days.
said governments wasted valuable time by focusing on a handful of
specific words in the negotiating text, and failed to raise emissions
cuts to a level high enough to reduce global warming.
Sunday's deal follows years of failed attempts to impose
legally-binding, international cuts on emerging giants, such as China
and India, as well as rich nations like the United States.
The developed world had already accepted formal targets under a first
phase of the Kyoto Protocol, which runs out at the end of next year,
although Washington never ratified its commitment.
Sunday's deal extends Kyoto until the end of 2017, ensuring there is no
gap between commitment periods, but EU delegates said lawyers would have
to reconcile those dates with existing EU legislation.