Climate Change Compromise Plan Offered in Bali

By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 15, 2007

NUSA DUA, Indonesia, Dec. 15 -- Organizers of the international climate conference here presented an open-ended compromise proposal to delegates from 190 nations early Saturday in hopes of bridging disagreements over how to begin negotiating a new treaty to combat global warming.

The compromise was unveiled after nearly all-night negotiations over the stubborn differences between the United States and much of the world and between industrialized and developing nations.

In an effort to break the deadlock, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono urged delegates to come to a resolution quickly. "Frankly, I am disappointed with the lack of progress, Ban told the delegates. "Seize the moment, this moment, for the good of all humanity."

Both men received a standing ovation.

In a bid to address U.S. objections to setting specific targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the treaty talks, the compromise proposal referred only in a footnote to the short-term emissions cuts European leaders had demanded.

In addition, the compromise framework would call on developing countries to take verifiable steps in their own countries to reduce global warming pollution, but would not compel them to join a mandatory international agreement that would take effect in 2012, as some industrialized countries had wanted.

David Doniger, climate policy director for the advocacy group Natural Resources Defense Council, said that if the delegates approved the deal Saturday as expected, it would be "the start of the world's last chance to pull off a treaty to stave off the worst effects of global warming."

For the past week, the United States and the European Union had faced off over whether industrialized countries should pledge to cut their emissions 25 to 40 percent by 2020, with European leaders threatening to boycott the parallel climate negotiations that President Bush launched in Washington unless the United States acquiesced.

In order to break the impasse, the document referred to that goal, which is outlined in this year's reports by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, only in a footnote that speaks to the "urgency" of addressing climate change.

"It's a weakened document, you cannot deny that," said Hans Verolme, who directs the climate change program for the World Wildlife Fund, a conservation group. "I don't know how you can footnote the Nobel Prize-winning IPCC. We were stunned by that," he added, referring to the U.N. panel that, along with former vice president Al Gore, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize this week.

In essence, the document leaves most difficult decisions to those who participate in the process that will follow. The president who succeeds Bush will play a major role in determining how deeply industrialized countries cut their emissions between 2012 and 2016, after commitments made under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol expire. The United States never accepted that pact.

"There's a seat at the table for the next U.S. president, but clearly the Bush administration has shown it's not serious about using the best available science to craft a deal that reflects the urgency of the threat of dangerous climate change," Verolme said. "The serious countries will do their best to strike a serious deal in 2009."

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