United Nations

UN delegates agree basis for global climate pact

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 November, 2013, 6:56am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 November, 2013, 6:56am

UN negotiators reached consensus yesterday on some of the foundations for a global climate pact, modifying wording in a document that had threatened to derail talks in Warsaw.

In a open meeting, delegates adopted an altered text thrashed out during an hour-long emergency huddle in the Warsaw National Stadium where the talks were rapidly approaching their 24th hour of extra time.

The revised text, yet to be ratified by a joint plenary meeting of all parties, notably changed the word "commitments" for nationally-determined greenhouse gas emissions cuts, to "contributions".

Developed and developing nations have butted heads in the Polish capital ever since the annual round of talks started on November 11, aimed at laying the groundwork for the new pact to be signed in Paris by December 2015. It will be the first to bind all the world's nations to curbing earth-warming greenhouse gas emissions from burning coal, oil and gas.

A key point of contention was the opposition of emerging economies like China and India to any "commitments" of an equally binding nature to rich and poor states, without taking account of their history of greenhouse gas emissions. Developing nations, their growth largely powered by fossil fuel combustion, blame the West's long emissions history for the peril facing the planet, and insist their wealthier counterparts carry a larger responsibility to fix the problem.

"Only developed countries should have commitments," Chinese negotiator Su Wei earlier told fellow negotiators.

Emerging economies could merely be expected to "enhance action", he said.

On current emissions trends, scientists warn that the earth could face warming of four degrees or higher over pre-industrial levels - a recipe for catastrophic storms, droughts, floods and a land-gobbling sea-level rise that would hit poor countries disproportionally hard.

A major sticking point was the insistence of some developing nations such as China and India, their growth fuelled by fossil-fuel combustion, on guarantees of less onerous emissions curbs compared with wealthy nations.

As emissions continue to grow year after year, developing nations say their developed counterparts must take more responsibility for curbs.