News Column

U.N. Climate Talks Keep Hope Alive

November 25, 2013

David Jolly, The New York Times

Coal-fired power plant (file photo)

WARSAW, Poland -- Two weeks of U.N. climate talks ended Saturday with a pair of last-minute deals keeping alive the hope that a global effort can ward off a ruinous rise in temperatures.

Delegates agreed to the broad outlines of a proposed system for pledging emissions cuts and gave their support for a new treaty mechanism to tackle the human cost of rising seas, floods, stronger storms and other expected effects of global warming.

The measures added momentum to the talks as U.N. members look toward a 2015 conference in Paris to replace the Kyoto Protocol.

"I think this is what they needed to move the ball forward," said Jennifer Morgan, director of the climate and energy program at the World Resources Institute, "even if you can't say that it provided a lot of new ambition."

The conference, known as the 19th annual meeting of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, got under way two weeks ago in the shadow of the giant Philippines typhoon.

The United States hailed the agreement on calculating emissions reductions, which was along lines proposed by Todd Stern, President Barack Obama's climate envoy. Stern had called for each nation to make a public offer early enough to be evaluated for the Paris summit meeting. He argued that peer pressure was the best hope for concerted action after the 2009 Copenhagen meeting showed a binding top-down approach could not succeed at the international level.

Negotiations ended a full day later than originally planned, and delegates, who had gone days with little sleep, were nodding exhaustedly.

The language grew heated at times by diplomatic standards, with Stern on Saturday reminding China that it had agreed two years ago that climate action would be "applicable to all parties," and expressing surprise "that China would be assuming no commitments under the future agreement." Lead negotiators eventually worked out compromise language - changing the word "commitments" to "contributions" - for 2015 to allow some wiggle room.

The deal comes less than a year before a "climate summit" of leaders called by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon for September in New York, where world leaders will be asked to show progress on cutting emissions in the full glare of the United States and the world news media.

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(c) 2013 ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved.

Original headline: U.N. climate talks end with pair of deals

Source: (c) 2013 ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved.

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