UN climate negotiators today struck a compromise deal on a roadmap for an accord that will, for the first time, legally force all major carbon emitters to cut greenhouse gas emissions, ending days of wrangling between India and the EU over the fate of the Kyoto protocol.
While the new pact to be finalised till 2015, will for the first time bring India and China under the ambit of a legal mechanism guiding emission cuts, the accord will go into effect only from 2020.
The pact on tackling climate change -- the agreement on which came after hard negotiations that ran 36 hours beyond schedule -- must be completed by 2015, and talks on the new legal deal covering all countries will begin next year, when Kyoto Protocol expires.
Under the compromise, while India and China agreed to bring themselves under a governing treaty, the developed nations agreed to a second commitment period under Kyoto Protocol, putting to rest concerns that they would walk away from commitments once the 1997 treaty expires in 2012.
Kyoto Protocol remains the only legally-binding treaty for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and India had batted hard for its revival at the 194-party conference here.
Kyoto Protocol sets binding targets for 37 industrialised nations and the EU to slash carbon emissions to 5 per cent below the 1990 levels by 2012.
Up to now, China and India have been exempt from any constraints because they are developing countries, while the US has opted out of the Kyoto Protocol.
During the conference, which was originally scheduled to close on Friday, the EU had pushed hard for a "roadmap" to a new, legally-binding treaty against fierce resistance from India and China, whose delegates argued that mandatory cuts would slow their growth and condemn millions to poverty.
"Am I to write a blank cheque and sign away the livelihoods and sustainability of 1.2 billion Indians, without even knowing what the EU 'roadmap' contains?" asked Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan. "Please do not hold us hostage."
The final text of the Durban conference said parties would "develop a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force". That compromise averted the use of "legally-binding".
"The equity of burden-sharing cannot be shifted," Natarajan said, while rejecting the EU proposal which, she argued, undermined the two-decade-old principle that developing nations had less responsibility than industrialised countries.
The intense debate went on past midnight last night, prompting Conference President and South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane to call a recess.
Nkoana-Mashabane gave Natarajan and European Commissioner Connie Hedegaard 10 minutes to come up with a compromise formula.
After their talks, India and EU agreed to the compromised formula, with Natarajan saying: "We have shown our flexibility and we have agreed to this...."
UNFCCC chief Christiana Figueres seemed happy with the outcome at the Durban talks.
"In honour of Mandela: It always seems impossible until it is done. And it is done!," Figueres tweeted, citing the words of the former South African President and anti-apartheird icon.
"I think in the end it ended up quite well... The first time you will see developing countries agreeing, essentially, to be bound by a legal agreement," US chief negotiator Todd Stern said.
Describing the agreement reached at the climate talks in Durban as "significant", UN chief Ban Ki-Moon said it represents an "important advance" in the work on tackling global warming and sought its quick implementation.
Many delegates earlier felt the host South African government lacked urgency and strategy to clinch a deal. However, there was applause in the main conference hall when Nkoana-Mashabane announced the final outcome.
Apart from the roadmap for a new deal, the meet agreed to the management of a fund for climate aid to poor countries, though how to raise the money was not specified.
Under the agreement, EU will place its current emission- cutting pledges inside the legally-binding Kyoto Protocol.
Xie Zhenhua, head of the Chinese delegation, said the outcome was fully in accordance with the mandate of the UN Framework Convention of Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Kyoto Protocol and the Bali Roadmap.
Describing the outcome as "progressive and balanced," he said it was also in line with the two-track negotiation process and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.
"The conference made decisions on the arrangement of the second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol, which is the most concerned issue of developing countries," Xie was quoted as saying by China's official Xinhua news agency.
Earlier, the EU said the developed nations do not want India to harm its economy but insisted the country still needs to agree to a legally-binding treaty.
"We would never dream of asking India to harm its economy," Hedegaard told PTI. "We fully recognise India's right to grow and we are fully aware that India has lot of development needs and needs to access energy."
"But the challenge is that we just think that a treaty in the world of the 21st century must have the same legal value for everyone," Hedegaa added. "We would never ask India to take the same kind of responsibilities as the developed world."
British Climate Secretary Chris Huhne had also said that the weaker text and the longer timeline were not acceptable. "The UK, as part of the EU, will continue to push for the most credible deal that meets the needs of the science."
The tight timeline and legally-binding ambitions had been criticised by the BASIC countries -- Brazil, South Africa, India and China -- and the US.
Asserting that equity has to be centrepiece of climate talks, Natarajan yesterday slammed developed nations for not doing enough to combat global warming and made an "emotional" appeal for space for basic development for its 1.2 billion people and poverty eradication.
In the midst of growing criticism, she had told delegates that India was not holding up the climate talks.
UN Climate Meet Clears Roadmap for Landmark Deal
Betwa Sharma / Durban
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