Climate talks end with late deal

Delegates and negotiators discuss the latest draft report in Durban, 10 December Elements of the draft text caused much discussion

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UN climate talks have closed with an agreement that the chair said had "saved tomorrow, today".

The European Union will place its current emission-cutting pledges inside the legally-binding Kyoto Protocol, a key demand of developing countries.

Talks on a new legal deal covering all countries will begin next year and end by 2015, coming into effect by 2020.

Management of a fund for climate aid to poor countries has also been agreed, though how to raise the money has not.

Talks ran nearly 36 hours beyond their scheduled close, with many delegates saying the host government lacked urgency and strategy.

Nevertheless, there was applause in the main conference hall when South Africa's International Relations Minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, brought down the long-awaited final gavel.

"We came here with plan A, and we have concluded this meeting with plan A to save one planet for the future of our children and our grandchildren to come," she said.

"We have made history."

The conclusion was delayed by a dispute between the EU and India over the precise wording of the "roadmap" for a new global deal.

Start Quote

While they develop, we die; and why should we accept this?”

End Quote Karl Hood Foreign Minister of Grenada

India did not want a specification that it must be legally binding.

Eventually, a Brazilian diplomat came up with the formulation that the deal must have "legal force", which proved acceptable.

The roadmap proposal originated with the EU, the Alliance of Small Island States (Aosis) and the Least Developed Countries bloc (LDCs).

They argued that only a new legal agreement eventually covering emissions from all countries - particularly fast-growing major emitters such as China - could keep the rise in global average temperatures since pre-industrial times below 2C (3.6F), the internationally-agreed threshold.

"If there is no legal instrument by which we can make countries responsible for their actions, then we are relegating countries to the fancies of beautiful words," said Karl Hood, Grenada's Foreign Minister, speaking for Aosis.

"While they develop, we die; and why should we accept this?"

Impassioned arguments

Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, president of the talks: "No one can walk out of this room and say we don't care about climate change"

Delegates from the Basic group - Brazil, South Africa, India and China - criticised what they saw as a tight timetable and excessive legality.

"I stand firm on my position of equity," said an impassioned Jayanthi Natarajan, India's environment minister.

"This is not about India, it is about the entire world."

India believes in maintaining the current stark division where only countries labelled "developed" have to cut their greenhouse gas emissions.

Western nations, she said, have not cut their own emissions as they had pledged; so why should poorer countries have to do it for them?

Xie Zhenhua, head of the Chinese delegation, agreed.

Apparently trembling with rage, he berated the developed countries: "We are doing things you are not doing... we want to see your real actions".

However, Bangladesh and some other developing countries weighed in on the side of Aosis, saying a new legally-binding deal was needed.

Aosis and the LDCs agree that rich countries need to do more.

But they also accept analyses concluding that fast-developing countries such as China will need to cut their emissions several years in the future if governments are to meet their goal of keeping the rise in global average temperature since pre-industrial times below 2C.

Once the roadmap blockage had been cleared, everything else followed quickly.

Climate change glossary
Select a term to learn more:
Action that helps cope with the effects of climate change - for example construction of barriers to protect against rising sea levels, or conversion to crops capable of surviving high temperatures and drought.

There were some surreal moment of confusion, but few objections, except from members of the Latin American Alba group, who said the developed world was not living up to its promises.

Green fund

A management framework was adopted for the Green Climate Fund, which will eventually gather and disburse finance amounting to $100bn (£64bn) per year to help poor countries develop cleanly and adapt to climate impacts.

There has also been significant progress on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD).

Environment groups were divided in their reaction, with some finding it a significant step forward and others saying it had done nothing to change the course of climate change.

Many studies indicate that current pledges on reducing emissions are taking the Earth towards a temperature rise of double the 2C target.

Michael Jacobs, visiting professor at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment in London, said the agreement could bring real changes.

"The agreement here has not in itself taken us off the 4C path we are on," he said.

"But by forcing countries for the first time to admit that their current policies are inadequate and must be strengthened by 2015, it has snatched 2C from the jaws of impossibility.

"At the same time it has re-established the principle that climate change should be tackled through international law, not national, voluntarism."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 249.

    RE 222.billy
    "A 25% increase in 60 years of the 3% attributable to man (97% of all CO2 is naturally occuring)g..."
    It is man that has released millions of years of new (fossil) CO2 and most of that 25% increase is new.

    ditto 244.chiptheduck its the fossil CO2 we have added to the system not existing CO2 that is the problem

  • rate this

    Comment number 248.

    Do you think the EU will charge a financial transaction tax on any money they send to the 'green' fund?

  • rate this

    Comment number 247.

    That's the stuff that every mammal has been exhaling for millions of years isn't it?
    If you're serious about climate change hold your breath!
    The problem is overpopulation and the resultant deforestation (ie the green things that convert CO2 into carbon and oxygen). Chemical poisoning of our oceans is also causing problems by destroying CO2 consuming fauna.

  • rate this

    Comment number 246.

    Diamondrush wrote:
    "There is no avoiding climate change, we need to accept it is now inevitable and adapt our lives to work with it rather than against it. Anyone who still believes we can stop it is living in a dream world..."
    ...but are we happy for 100 million to die, or would we rather make a tiny effort and only have 10 million die? Realistically, the human race is probably just too lazy :-(

  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    Money money money

    The developing nations want it the developed nations dont want to pay it

    The 'science' was hardly mentioned so lets drop the pretence, this is about redistribution of wealth

  • rate this

    Comment number 244.


    That's the stuff that every mammal has been exhaling for millions of years isn't it?

    If you're serious about climate change hold your breath!

  • rate this

    Comment number 243.

    RE 222.

    A 25% increase in 60 years of the 3% attributable to man (97% of all CO2 is naturally occuring), isn't going to make a jot of difference. Spending money trying to control climate is a total waste. If we've got that money to burn, howabout feeding the starving...

  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    No you could not "sign in", signing finished in 2008, on paper, and it is a legit project.
    What else does scientific community have to do to distance itself from this circus??? I am a scientist, and I am saying NOT IN MY NAME.
    Dirt, corruption, collusion, fraud and stupidity - yes. Science - I don't think so.

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    226.Mark Gibbs
    11 Minutes ago
    Discussion threads on this are pointless, they draw both hired and amateur deniers like flies on... well, anyway, there's nothing to be gained by engaging with 'em, so I don't.

    @ I am a looney denier. One way to deal with deniers was tried by the East Anglia Apocolyptics, who avoided engagement with skeptics, and ended up as an international laughing stock.

  • rate this

    Comment number 240.

    Antarctic ice is at near record highs.
    Arctic ice has not decreased below the 2007 levels
    The sun is nearly as dormant as during the Little Ice Age
    The oceans are cooling rapidly
    We are in a double dip La Nina

    Everything points to severe and prolonged cooling.
    What steps are being taken to prepare for catastrophic cooling. You know... the other climate change. Warming is a pleasant walk in a park

  • rate this

    Comment number 239.


    in fairness, if we timed it right and the birds flew into the windmills just as they were catching fire, we could have a very expensive BBQ ;)


    agreed, but i'm guessing not in the way you are thinking

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.

    Why are no farmers in Greenland right now? Clearly we should be growing crops there as the Vikings did 600 years ago and now its dangerously hotter than ever, isn't it?

    1. Too many people.
    2. Poor water management.
    3. Climate uptick since the Little Ice Age.

    That's the truth.

    Shame reporters won't report the truth, isn't it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    192. scientist_sceptic '' need to to be aware that sites like this are not checked, I could sign in to this site as a scientist (which I am) and as a PhD in Physics (which I am not). All this means is that 31k signins were done all some, none of which are scientists or in fact it could have been a robot program doing it setup to do all the entries with about a third as PhDs

  • rate this

    Comment number 236.

    Vast quantities of this in evidence today:–Kruger_effect

  • rate this

    Comment number 235.

    I know the headline refers to the conference but time is running out, has already run out for many species on this planet because of humanity's actions. I wonder if we're on the grandest march of folly of our short history (to borrow the phrase from Barbara Tuchman).

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    Isn't it becoming clear that these kinds of international political talks are never going to get anywhere? Only a UN with real powers could force action on climate change but this is very unlikely since the same politicians leading us down the path to self destrction would never allow it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    The largest World misuse of energy, since time began is the UN. They use huge monetry resources that could be used more efficiently, have people who have massive salaries & produce nothing. I have seen these UN people in various countries, who are just on the gravy train. All Countries should stop contributing to this failed Quango.

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    Nice to see the demonstrators led away. Nice little jolly for them in Durban, paid for by the various charities they represent perhaps - Greenpeace, Oxfam, all got their feet in the trough.
    But will this evident failure put a stop to Huhne's attempt to cover the country with bird slicing wind farms?

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    Climate change was something to worry about when the world was sloshing around in cheap money.and people had nothing more to worry about. Now the only people worrying about it are the ones in the Climate Change Industry The BBC and the University of East Anglia who's ride on the climate gravy train is coming to an end. To think that the eu could control anything is ridiculous

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.


    There's a big difference in treating our planet with respect and blaming a trace gas for all ills known to man (OK, exaggeration but you know what i mean)


    you're funny, but i guess you weren't meaning to be funny


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