Poor countries join the rich in agreeing to monitor emissions

McClatchy NewspapersDecember 11, 2010 

MEXICO CITY — Delegates from 193 nations early Saturday adopted a modest climate deal to cope with global warming, pledging that both developed and poorer nations will curb emissions in an effort to limit average increases in the world's temperature to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century.

The U.N. accord, approved after two weeks of haggling in the resort of Cancun, stops short of a treaty but for the first time commits all countries to cut emissions that lead to extreme weather. The United States and Europe had insisted on heightened scrutiny of major developing nations out of concern that countries such as China would hide whether they are making progress on reining in carbon emissions.

The agreement also sets up a Green Climate Fund to administer money from wealthy nations to help poor countries adapt to climate change. The fund begins with $30 billion in rapid assistance and pledges of $100 billion a year starting in 2020.

With the last-minute accord, negotiators put behind them the specter of the collapse of the U.N. climate process, haunted by a chaotic summit a year ago in Copenhagen that broke down in recriminations.

"Confidence has returned. Hope has returned," President Felipe Calderon of Mexico said, adding that as the conference's host he had overruled the lone objection of Bolivia, which said the accords were not strong enough to stop catastrophic climate change.

"A good agreement is one in which all parts remain equally unsatisfied. This is the paradox of multilateral negotiations," Calderon said.

"Cancun has done its job," Christiana Figueres, the senior U.N. climate official, said in a statement. "The beacon of hope has been reignited and faith in the multilateral climate change process to deliver results has been restored."

Major powers, including the United States, the European Union, China, Japan and India, all approved the package of measures, known as the Cancun Agreements.

While non-binding, the accords place under U.N. oversight voluntary emissions cuts by more than 80 countries, including China, the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitter, and the United States, the No. 2 emitter. They also commit countries to develop low-carbon strategies, share technologies, and report their inventories annually.

For their part, developing countries agreed to publish progress reports every two years on their plans to reduce emissions and actions to mitigate climate change.

The top U.S. climate negotiator, Todd Stern, said at an early morning press conference that the climate accord might give political impetus on Capitol Hill, where a climate bill failed in July.

"I think that it's a positive thing to see a worldwide agreement, one that includes all of the major economies," Stern said, according to Reuters.

Unlike past negotiations, observers said this year's climate talks were held in a clear and transparent fashion, without the backroom dealing of Copenhagen. Many credited Mexico with keeping an upbeat mood.

"The solid steering of Mexico has put the U.N. process back on track," Andrew Deutz, director of international government relations at the Nature Conservancy, said in a statement. "While the agreement is not perfect, it keeps the world rolling along on the right path."

Another advocacy group said the modest accords should be seen as complementary to actions by individuals, local and regional governments to curb carbon emissions.

"The Cancun Agreements are a detailed set of visionary, yet pragmatic principles," said Jake Schmidt, international climate policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, a New York-based advocacy group. The summit "made progress on emissions reductions, greater transparency, forest preservation and the creation of the green fund to help mobilize much needed investments throughout the world."

Bolivia's indigenous president, Evo Morales, who affirmed that extreme weather associated with climate change is already causing 300,000 deaths a year, received a strong ovation from other delegates when he spoke on Friday despite his criticism that strong action must be taken to avoid what he called "eco-cide."

Overriding his objections, Mexican Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa said consensus does not "mean that one country has the right to veto" decisions supported by all others.

The accords did not specify targets for reducing carbon emissions to reach the goal of keeping temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

Nations have yet to settle a dispute over the future of the 1997 Kyoto Agreement, which is set to expire in 2012, and the final form of a legal treaty that commits nations to binding emissions targets.

Saturday's agreements kindled hopes that such a treaty could by reached at the next U.N. climate conference to be held in Durban, South Africa, in 2011.

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McClatchy Newspapers 2010

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