Climate conference sees progress on plan
ACCRA, Ghana - Delegates at a key UN climate conference made headway yesterday on a plan to encourage developing countries to regulate carbon emissions by focusing on their largest industries.
The emerging plan sidesteps objections from countries like India and China, which refuse to accept national targets for the overall emission of the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.
How to get developing countries to commit to reducing pollution levels has deeply divided countries seeking to craft a new climate change agreement to succeed the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.
The meeting of 1,600 delegates and environmentalists from 160 countries was the third conference this year working on the accord, due to be adopted in Copenhagen in December 2009.
The Accra meeting also was discussing ways to integrate the conservation of the world's ever-shrinking forests into the Copenhagen agreement, as well as studying ways to raise and distribute the tens of billions of dollars needed annually to help poor countries deal with the consequences of climate change.
Under the Kyoto pact, only 37 industrial countries committed to meet specific targets. Together, they were required to cut emissions by an average 5 percent from 1990 levels by 2012. The United States refused to participate in the Kyoto regime because it excluded China and other large newly powerful economies from obligation.
Korea, which is not one of the 37, surprised delegates by announcing that next year it will adopt a target for reducing its carbon emissions by 2020, but declined to give specifics. This year, South Africa also said it would embrace self-imposed targets, peaking its emissions by 2025.
Under the "sectoral approach" now taking shape, developing countries would set pollution targets for specific industries, like cement, steel, or aluminum. Unlike the 37 industrial countries, they likely would not be punished for missing their goals.
"Something quiet but quite dramatic is happening," said David Doniger of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "People are now talking about the same idea in the same language."
India voiced reservations, but did not reject the concept. As for China, Doniger said the plan fit neatly with Beijing's intention to increase the efficiency of its key industries, which produce the bulk of its carbon emissions.
Details of any agreement on the new approach would be complex and difficult to reach, and it is only one of many disputed components of a post-2012 pact.