World governments agreed a negotiating framework to decide a new global climate policy by 2009 at the UN climate conference in Bali, Indonesia on Saturday.
The Bali road-map commits all developed countries to quantified greenhouse gas emission reduction targets and says "deep cuts" will be needed. Developing countries will commit to "appropriate mitigation actions".
Upon the insistence of the US, the road-map suggests no concrete emission reduction targets. But a footnote makes reference to documents from the intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) which say reductions of up to 40 per cent by 2020 are needed to head off dangerous climate change.
The agreement came on Saturday afternoon after a sleepless night of high drama. Emotional speeches led by UN secretary-general Ban Ki Moon and Indonesian president Susilo Bambang eventually prompted the US to drop opposition to wording changes on developing country commitments. This led to cheers for the US delegation.
"We consider this to be a historical day with a historical outcome, everything will be different in relation to climate change," Portuguese environment minister Francisco Correia Nunes said on behalf of the EU.
The UN climate convention's secretary, Yvo de Boer, described the new agreement as "ambitious" - because it "very clearly" references the IPCC science - "transparent" - because it specifically asks business and civil society for input - and "flexible" - because it brings on board all developed and developing countries.
The business community welcomed the deal. "We are deeply satisfied," said Guy Sebban of the International chamber of commerce (ICC). "Now that we have a better perspective of what lies ahead, companies can better design their research and development programmes and their investment plans."
But others reached different conclusions. Carbon market expert Abyd Karmali of Merrill Lynch said the absence of concrete emission reduction targets in the road-map was a disappointment. And Greenpeace lamented the lack of references to "crucial cuts" and the "relegation of science to a footnote".
Meanwhile there was general approval for consensuses reached on development and transfer, and on stimulating financial flows to fund all climate change-related action.
Despite the optimism generated by the outcome at Bali, the next two years of talks promise to be difficult. Some observers say the US's ongoing "major emitters" initiative may complicate the process.
Several media reported US officials saying that they had "serious concerns" about the Bali deal. White House spokesman Dana Perino said climate negotiators "must give sufficient emphasis to the important and appropriate role that the larger emitting developing countries should play" - a clear reference to India and China.
In a separate agreement in Bali, parties to the Kyoto protocol agreed to be fully guided by the IPCC's recommendations in setting a second round of commitments by 2009. It is intended for the two tracks - the Bali road-map and Kyoto - eventually to merge. A review of the protocol, which will focus also on how to enhance carbon markets, was also launched.
Follow-up: UNFCCC Bali website http://unfccc.int/2860.php, plus meeting outcomes http://unfccc.int/meetings/cop_13/items/4049.php and UN press release http://www.un.org/climatechange/blog/index.asp. See also European commission reaction and analysis http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=MEMO/07/588 and ENB coverage http://www.iisd.ca/climate/cop13/. See reactions from the White House http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/12/20071215-1.html, ICC http://www.iccwbo.org/iccbidba/index.html and Greenpeace http://www.greenpeace.org/international/news/bali. For more detail and a graphic first-hand account of the conference and its outcome visit the ENDS Bali Blog http://endsbali.wordpress.com/.
Friends of the Irish Environment