A UN climate conference on Saturday extended the life of the Kyoto Protocol, the only binding pact on curbing greenhouse gas emissions, in a small but symbolic victory in the fight against global warming.
It took much haggling and many hours of lost sleep in the Qatari capital to arrive at the deal on interim measures to halt climate change pending a new, global pact due to take effect in 2020.
An extension of Kyoto was finally approved, with the EU, Australia, Switzerland and eight other industrialized nations signing up for binding emission cuts by 2020.
They represent about 15 percent of global emissions.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the deal, dubbed the Doha Climate Gateway, as an important first step, but said through his spokesman that “far more needs to be done.”
The protocol locks in only developed nations, excluding major developing polluters, such as China and India, as well as the US, which refuses to ratify it.
In practice, experts say the lengthening of the protocol will make little difference to pollution levels because it covers such a small portion of emissions and its signatories all had their own legislated targets anyway.
“It is a modest but essential step forward,” European climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard said at the conclusion of talks that had continued throughout Friday night and ran a whole day into extra time, paralyzed as rich and poor nations faced off over financing and compensation for climate damage.
After 12 days of haggling that ran aground almost from the start, conference chairman Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah finally rushed through the package on Saturday evening.
He had earlier urged delegates to seek consensus and not “open the box of Pandora again because we will never finish” — a warning that was all but ignored.
Attiyah was left waiting in the plenary hall for more than four hours as bartering continued.
The Qatari deputy prime minister rode roughshod over countries’ objections as he swung the gavel in quick succession and proclaimed: “It is so decided” to loud applause.
Russia noted an objection to the passing of the deal on Kyoto, whose first leg expires on Dec. 31.
The latest round of UN climate talks, notorious for dragging on as negotiators hold out to the very last in a poker-like game of oneupmanship, deadlocked on financing and “hot air” carbon credits.
“Hot air” refers to tradable greenhouse gas emission quotas that countries were allotted under the first leg of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and did not use — about 13 billion tonnes altogether.
Poland and Russia hold many such credits, having emitted much less than their lenient quotas, and insisted on being allowed to bank the difference beyond this year — a move most other parties vehemently opposed.
The package deal does allow the credits to be banked, but most potential markets, including the EU, Australia and Japan, stipulated in the document that they would not be buying.
The deal includes wording on scaling up funding to help poor countries deal with global warming and convert to planet-friendlier energy sources — but does not list any figures.