December 14, 2007 / 9:48 PM / 10 years ago

Climate talks in Bali head for compromise

NUSA DUA, Indonesia (Reuters) - U.N. talks in Bali headed for a deal on Saturday to launch negotiations on a global pact to fight climate change after the European Union and the United States settled a row over 2020 greenhouse gas curbs.

But there were lingering disputes about how strongly a final “roadmap” for talks on a broader treaty to succeed the U.N.’s Kyoto Protocol should demand action by China, India and poorer nations to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

“This is a compromise. We can live with this,” German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel told reporters after a late-night session among about 20 nations reached a draft deal that would be put to all 189 delegations to discuss at 0000 GMT.

The December 3-14 talks had been bogged down by a row between the United States, which opposes a guideline that rich countries should cut emissions by 25-40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, and the European Union, which favored the target.

The compromise, reached after days of acrimony at a beach resort on the Indonesian island, simply relegated the range to a footnote from a more prominent position in the preamble.

“Deep cuts in global emissions will be required” to avoid dangerous climate change, the preamble says.

The United States, the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gases and the only industrialized nation not party to Kyoto, said it was satisfied by the compromise.

“We can live with the preamble,” U.S. negotiator Harlan Watson told Reuters.

Washington opposed mention of firm 2020 guidelines for cutting carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, saying it would prejudge the outcome of negotiations on a new treaty meant to slow ever more droughts, heatwaves, storms and rising seas.


Most nations favor starting two years of negotiations ending with a broad new pact in 2009 to succeed Kyoto, which obliges 37 industrialized nations to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by an average of 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12.

The United Nations says a new deal must be in place by the end of 2009 to give parliaments time to ratify and to reassure carbon markets and investors looking beyond 2012.

In a sign of tensions over the talks, well past their Friday deadline, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will make an unscheduled return to the conference on Saturday morning at 0240 GMT. He left Bali for a trip to East Timor on Friday.

Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, said the discussion of the plenary session from 0000 GMT could flush out lingering disputes.

U.N. officials said one section of text still undecided was how far developing nations should be required to make “actions” or less demanding “contributions” to fight global warming.

The main negotiating bloc of developing countries, called the G77, said they were not ready to make new efforts to fight climate change by cutting emissions from fossil fuels. They fear curbs would cramp economic growth aimed at lifting millions out of poverty.

“People are negotiating, they are posturing, and not rising above entrenched national positions,” said Angus Friday, Grenada’s Ambassador to the U.N. and chair of the Alliance of Small Island states.

“We are just very disappointed at this stage. We are ending up with something so watered down there was no need for 12,000 people to gather here in Bali to have a watered-down text. We could have done that by email,” he said.

Others said it was a victory of sorts.

“You can ask if we need to have a meeting in Bali to decide this but we must not forget that it’s only a couple of years ago that (U.S. President George W.) Bush opposed any negotiations,” Norway’s Environment Minister Erik Solheim said.

“Now we are talking about commitments, involving the United States,” he added.

The preamble includes a reference to findings by the Nobel Prize-winning U.N. Climate Panel, which said that emissions by rich nations would have to be cut by 25 to 40 percent by 2020 to avert the worst effects of warming.

-- For Reuters latest environment blogs click on:

Additional reporting by Emma Graham-Harrison, Gerard Wynn, Gde Anugrah Arka, David Fogarty and Sugita Katyal in Bali and Ed Davies in Dili; Writing by Alister Doyle; Editing by Michael Roddy

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