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Bali Forum Backs Climate 'Road Map'

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By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 16, 2007

NUSA DUA, Indonesia, Dec. 15 -- Delegates from nearly 190 countries emerged from a final 24 hours of bruising negotiations Saturday 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 to measurable, verifiable steps.

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The deal, which will form the basis for a two-year, U.N.-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 postpones many tough decisions and provides more incentives than penalties when it comes to addressing global warming.

The consensus document was accepted by acclamation following an acrimonious confrontation between the U.S. delegates and leaders of developing nations, who bluntly 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 acceded to language pledging industrialized countries to provide quantifiable technological and financial aid to less well-off nations, including the economically burgeoning 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.

"Bali has delivered what it needed to do," U.N. climate chief Yvo de Boer said in a final news conference Saturday night. "That road forward is ambitious, it is transparent, and it is flexible."

Bush administration officials, who fought to keep mentions of specific emissions targets out of the document, said they were pleased with the progress that had been made. The agreement will guide negotiators in their quest to produce an accord outlining how deeply the industrialized countries should cut their 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 J. Dobriansky, U.S. undersecretary of state 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 among the delegates here, however, came about 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 as well as a final confrontation in which the developing nations took turns chastising the United States for not, in their view, doing its part.

Despite the difficult bargaining that lies ahead to produce an actual treaty, several participants said the conference's success in reaching a compromise showed that politicians across the ideological and geographical spectrum 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.

Among other things, Hedegaard was referring to the moment when the Bali session nearly collapsed after Dobriansky told 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 questioned why Washington was not doing more after leaders from emerging economies had dropped their resistance to taking measurable and verifiable steps to reduce their emissions.


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