Climate Negotiators In Poland Reach Consensus On Pact

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24 hours of extra time needed to reach deal

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Nov. 24, 2013) – Negotiators from about 195 countries have reached consensus on some of the cornerstones of an ambitious climate pact to combat global warming.

Governments agreed at talks in Poland that a new deal would consist of a patchwork of national contributions to curb emissions that could blur a 20-year-old distinction between the obligations of rich and poor nations.

They are aiming for a new global deal to be signed in Paris in 2015 to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which set targets for developed countries to cut their greenhouse gas emissions.

United Nations officials and country representatives took part in meetings for two weeks in Warsaw, which had been due to end last week.

Nearly 24 hours into extra time, a plenary meeting approved a modified text that had been thrashed out during an hour-long emergency huddle.

Negotiators agreed that all countries should work to curb emissions from burning coal, oil and gas as soon as possible, and ideally by the first quarter of 2015.

"Just in the nick of time, the negotiators in Warsaw delivered enough to keep the process moving," said Jennifer Morgan of the World Resources Institute think tank.

The pact is due to be agreed in 2015 and come into force after 2020.

John Connor from the Sydney-based Climate Institute was an observer at the talks.

He told the ABC that while Australia's credibility on climate change was affected by the Federal Government's decision not send an elected member, there were some positive outcomes.

"There is no way which we can quietly or secretly backslide on any of our ambition," he said.

"What we should do is actually lift our game and be much clearer so that we're serious about climate action, and that we're going to make strong emissions reductions of up to 25 per cent by 2020 and much more beyond."

'Commitments' vs 'contributions'

The agreement ended a deadlock between rich and poor countries about sharing the burden of limiting emissions.

Under the last climate pact, the Kyoto Protocol, only the most developed countries were required to limit their emissions.

During negotiations emerging economies like China and India opposed "commitments" that were equally binding to rich and poor states, and did not take into account their history of greenhouse gas emissions.

They blame the West's long emissions history for the peril facing the planet, and insist their wealthier counterparts carry a larger responsibility to fix the problem.

"Only developed countries should have commitments," Chinese negotiator Su Wei told fellow negotiators.

He said merging economies could be expected to merely "enhance action".

"I feel like I am going into a time warp. That is folly," said Todd Stern, the US special envoy for climate change.

The US noted all nations agreed in 2012 that the 2015 deal would be "applicable to all", including China, which is now the world's biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, and India, which is the fourth largest emitter after the US and Europe.

The agreement was reached after negotiators replaced the word "commitments" for nationally-determined greenhouse gas emissions cuts, with "contributions".

Nations divided over climate aid

Even after breaking the deadlock over which countries should tackle emissions, talks continued on another issue that has divided rich and poor: the aid that developed countries pay to developing ones to help them curb emissions and cope with to the impacts of climate change.

Developed nations, which promised in 2009 to raise aid to $100 billion a year after 2020 from $10 billion a year in 2010-12, have resisted calls to set targets for 2013-19.

A draft text merely urged developed nations, which have been more focused on spurring economic growth than on fixing climate change, to set "increasing levels" of aid.

The talks have also proposed a "Warsaw Mechanism", which would provide expertise and possibly aid to help developing nations cope with loss and damage from extreme events such as heatwaves, droughts and floods, and creeping threats such as rising sea levels and desertification.

Developing nations have insisted on a "mechanism" - to show it was separate from existing structures - even though rich countries say that it will not get new funds beyond the planned $100 billion a year from 2020.

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