DURBAN (Reuters) – The chairwoman of U.N. climate talks urged delegates to approve a compromise package of accords on fighting global warming, telling delegates they should set aside national interests in order to save the planet.
South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said the four separate texts were not perfect but represented a good outcome after two weeks of sometimes fraught negotiations in the port city of Durban.
“Let us agree to accept the Durban outcome package. I feel the four pieces of the package before us …. represent a comprehensive, balanced and credible set of outcomes for this conference,” she said.
“I think we all realize they are not perfect. But we should not let the perfect become the enemy of the good and the possible,” she added.
The talks, which were due to end on Friday, dragged on throughout Saturday and looked set to continue into a second extra day, as visibly tired delegates tried to hammer out a deal.
A number of delegates had appeared cautiously optimistic that an overarching agreement could be reached but sticking points remained suggesting a breakthrough was far from certain.
These included an extension of the Kyoto Protocol, the only global pact enforcing carbon cuts. The draft text says the second Kyoto phase should end in 2017, but that clashes with the EU’s own binding goal to cut carbon emissions by 20 percent by 2020.
Other technical disputes concerned complex government emissions permits and forestry accounting rules.
But behind the haggling, the talks have boiled down to a tussle between the United States, which wants all polluters to be held to the same legal standard on emissions cuts, and China and India which want to ensure their fast growing economies are not shackled.
The specter of a collapse in the talks hovered over the dragging negotiations, which would be a major setback for host South Africa and raise the prospect that the Kyoto Protocol could expire at the end of 2012 with no successor treaty in place.
Earlier, Brazil’s climate envoy Luiz Alberto Figueiredo Machado had said he believed a deal would still be done, avoiding the postponement of decisions until next year.
“We are agreeing. a protocol or another legal instrument. Everything is there,” he said. Developing and EU states objected to the phrase “legal framework” in a previous draft, saying it was too vague, insisting “instrument” implied a more binding commitment.
That commitment would start “by 2020, so as not to have a gap,” he said. That date would meet a key EU demand.
But if Durban failed to produce an accord, a number of measures tentatively agreed could fall by the wayside, calling into question the effectiveness of the such large-scale negotiations.
Scientists warn, however, that time is running out.
U.N. reports released in the last month warned delays on a global agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions will make it harder to restrict global warming to safe limits.
A rise in average global temperature within 2 degrees Celsius over the next century is the generally accepted target.
A warming planet has already intensified droughts and floods, increased crop failures and sea levels could rise to levels that would submerge several small island nations, who are holding out for more ambitious targets in emissions cuts.
(Reporting by Nina Chestney, Jon Herskovitz, Andrew Allan and Michael Szabo and Stian Reklev; editing by Jon Boyle)
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