Climate conference approves landmark deal

Durban: After days of emotional debate that saw India and the EU clash over a planned roadmap, UN climate talks today reached a landmark deal under which the European Union will place its current emission-cutting pledges inside legally-binding Kyoto Protocol and all major emitters will be forced to act against global warming.

The crucial negotiations here closed after running nearly 36 hours beyond their schedule, amid criticism by many delegates who felt the host government lacked urgency and strategy.

As per the agreement reached at the 194-party conference, the countries agreed to start negotiations on a new pact that would put all nations under the same legal regime that would come in force by 2020. The pact was described by the chair as "balanced".

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, BBC reported.

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.

Under the deal, the European Union will place its current emission-cutting pledges inside the legally-binding Kyoto Protocol.

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

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," EU Climate Commissioner Connie 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," she added. "We would never ask India to take the same kind of responsibilities as the developed world."

The roadmap originated with the EU, the Alliance of Small Island States (Aosis) and the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), which all were concerned that without a new legal pact eventually covering emissions from all countries, particularly fast-growing major emitters such as China, the global average temperature since pre-industrial times will rise by more than 2C, 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," Karl Hood, Grenada`s Foreign Minister, said on behalf of Aosis.

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

UK Climate Secretary Chris Huhne agreed 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," was quoted as saying.

The tight timeline and legally-binding ambitions were criticised by the BASIC countries — Brazil, South Africa, India and China — and the US.

Asserting that equity has to be centrepiece of climate talks, India yesterday slammed developed nations for not doing enough to combat global warming as it made an "emotional" appeal for space for basic development for its 1.2 billion people and poverty eradication.

In the midst of growing criticism, Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan told delegates that India — which is being seen as "deal-breaker" for not agreeing to a legally binding treaty — was not holding up the climate talks.

"I was astonished and disturbed by the comments of my colleague from Canada who was pointing at us as to why we are against the roadmap," she said. "I am disturbed to find that a legally binding protocol to the Convention, negotiated just 14 years ago is now being junked in a cavalier manner."

The final agreement sets out a management framework for the Green Climate Fund, which will eventually gather and disburse finance amounting to USD 100 billion per year to help poor countries develop cleanly and adapt to climate impacts, BBC said.

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