By Joby Warrick,
Efforts to forge a comprehensive climate treaty advanced early Sunday as diplomats eked out an agreement that commits all countries to addressing the causes of climate change but leaves many of the particulars unresolved.
Negotiators who gathered in Lima, Peru, announced an accord at 1 :30 a.m., after 11 days of often rancorous talks that ran more than 24 hours into overtime. The agreement builds on recent momentum for a global treaty, to be finalized in Paris late next year. And in a key breakthrough, it requires action from developing countries as well as the industrialized world.
“The road to Paris has begun in Lima,” Felipe Calderón, former president of Mexico and chairman of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, said after the agreement was gaveled through in a large tent packed with weary delegates. “There is still considerable work to be done. But I am encouraged that countries, all around the world, are beginning to see that it is in their economic interest to take action now.”
The gains were modest — the requirements to be borne by individual countries were repeatedly watered down to ensure buy-in from more than 190 countries, ranging from established industrial powers of the West, to rising powerhouses such as China and India, to tiny island states such as Samoa and Nauru.
Under the agreement, each country will have to submit early next year a detailed plan for addressing carbon emissions. But a series of compromises Friday and Saturday stripped away specific requirements for cutting pollution and left no provisions for outside verification to ensure that the plans are carried out. The softened language was denounced by environmental groups as unacceptably weak.
“The foot-dragging in Lima is out of step with the urgent signs of climate change that are already apparent,” said Nathaniel Keohane, vice president for international climate at the Environment Defense Fund.
Western participants in the talks and independent experts said the compromises were necessary to keep the negotiations on track for next year in Paris. They noted that major industrial countries that produce most of the world’s greenhouse gases — including the United States, the nations of the European Union and China — already have committed to substantial curbs on greenhouse gas emissions, cuts that will be probably be incorporated into any pact that is approved in Paris.
“The major virtue of this agreement is that it applies to both developed and developing nations, outlines the commitment terms and keeps everyone at the table,” said Paul Bledsoe, a former Clinton White House climate adviser. “But the pressure ahead of Paris will be profound because all the thorniest issues have been left unresolved.”
The Lima meeting, which began on Dec. 1, offered an opportunity to settle technical issues underpinning next year’s global agreement, including how costs and obligations will be divided among poorer and wealthier countries. In the past, developing countries, including major emitters such as China and India, were exempted from mandatory cuts in greenhouse-gas pollution.
The talks went into overtime Saturday as delegations clashed over demands by developing countries for compensation from industrialized countries for damage from climate change as well as demands for more financial assistance to pay for a transition to climate-friendly energy sources.
The slow progress prompted U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry to fly to Lima on Thursday to urge negotiators along.
“If we continue down the same path we are on today, the world as we know it will profoundly change, and it will change dramatically for the worse,” Kerry told a gathering of diplomats at the talks, which were sponsored by the United Nations.
Pope Francis also intervened, warning diplomats in a statement that “the time to find global solutions is running out.”
“We can find solutions only if we act together and agree,” the pontiff said in a message sent to environment minister Manuel Pulgar Vidal, the Peruvian official chairing the talks.
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