UN negotiators have reached consensus on some of the cornerstones of an ambitious, global climate pact to be signed in 2015 in a bid to stave off dangerous warming.
Nearly 24 hours into extra time, a plenary meeting approved a modified text, thrashed out during an hour-long emergency huddle in the Warsaw National Stadium hosting the annual round of notoriously fractious talks.
Later, in a closing plenary session of the conference, delegates applauded as the text was given the green light.
Notably, negotiators had replaced the word “commitments” for nationally-determined greenhouse gas emissions cuts, with “contributions”.
Developed and developing nations have clashed in the Polish capital ever since negotiations opened on November 11 to lay the groundwork for the new pact to be signed in Paris by December 2015.
It will be the first to bind all the world’s nations to curbing Earth-warming greenhouse gas emissions from burning coal, oil and gas.
A key point of contention in Warsaw was the opposition of emerging economies like China and India to any “commitments” that were equally binding to rich and poor states and did not take into account their history of greenhouse gas emissions.
The issue is a fundamental one that has bedevilled the UN climate process since its inception 18 years ago.
Developing nations, their growth largely powered by fossil fuel combustion, blame the West’s long emissions history for the peril facing the planet, and insist their wealthier counterparts carry a larger responsibility to fix the problem.
“Only developed countries should have commitments,” Chinese negotiator Su Wei earlier told fellow negotiators. Emerging economies could merely be expected to “enhance action”, he said.
The West, though, insists emerging economies must do their fair share, considering that China is now the world’s biggest emitter of CO2, with India in fourth place after the US and Europe.
Delegates had also reached a consensus agreement on financing to help poor countries deal with climate change effects.
But early on Saturday evening, no agreement had yet been struck on creating a “loss and damage” mechanism for future climate harm that vulnerable countries say is no longer avoidable.