Compromise in climate talks: proposal would set aside elements the U.S. delegation resisted

BALI, Indonesia — A U.N. climate conference adopted a plan to negotiate a new global warming pact today, after the United States suddenly reversed its opposition to a call by developing nations for technological help to battle rising temperatures.

The adoption came after marathon negotiations overnight, which first settled a battle between Europe and the U.S. over whether the document should mention specific goals for rich countries’ obligations to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Upcoming talks, to be completed in 2009, may help determine for years to come how well the world can control climate change, and how severe the consequences of global warming will be.

European and U.S. envoys dueled into the final hours of the two-week meeting over the European Union’s proposal that the Bali mandate suggest an ambitious goal for cutting industrial nations’ emissions — by 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

That guideline’s specific numbers were eliminated from the text, but an indirect reference was inserted instead.

The negotiations snagged again early today over demands by developing nations that their need for technological help from rich nations and other issues receive greater recognition in the document launching the negotiations.

The United States initially rejected those demands, but backed down after delegates criticized the U.S. stand and urged a reconsideration.

“I think we have come a long way here,” said Paula Dobriansky, head of the U.S. delegation. “In this, the United States is very committed to this effort and just wants to really ensure we all act together. We will go forward and join consensus.”

The sudden reversal was met with rousing applause.

In a U.N. process requiring consensus, both sides won and lost.

The broadly worded “roadmap” doesn’t itself guarantee any level of emissions reductions or any international commitment by any country — only a commitment to negotiate.

As for developing countries, the final document instructs negotiators to consider incentives and other means to encourage poorer nations to curb, on a voluntary basis, growth in their emissions. The explosive growth of greenhouse emissions in China, India and other developing countries potentially could negate cutbacks in the developed world.

The Bali conference had been charged with launching negotiations for a regime of deeper emissions reductions to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which requires 37 industrial nations to cut output of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.

The United States is the only major industrial nation to reject Kyoto.

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