NUSA DUA, Indonesia (Reuters) – U.N.-led climate talks in Bali agreed on Saturday to launch negotiations on a new global warming pact to succeed the Kyoto Protocol after the United States dropped last-minute opposition.
Indonesian Environment Minister Rachmat Witoelar, the host of the talks, banged down his gavel on the deal to rapturous applause from delegates after an impassioned plea by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
"This is the defining moment for me and my mandate as secretary-general," he said over the breakthrough.
"I am deeply grateful to many member states for their spirit of flexibility and compromise," Ban told Reuters, in remarks echoed by the head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, Yvo de Boer."I think it was encouraging, That was a real sign of willingness to compromise," he said of the U.S. climbdown.
The deal after two-weeks of talks is a step towards slowing global warming that the U.N. climate panel says is caused by human activities, led by burning fossil fuels.
The meeting approved a "roadmap" for talks to adopt a new treaty to succeed Kyoto at a meeting in Copenhagen in 2009.
After being berated by numerous nations, a wave of relief swept the room filled with weary delegates when the United States relented.
The U.S. delegation dropped it opposition to a proposal by the main developing nation bloc, the G77, for rich nations to do more for the developing world to fight rising greenhouse emissions."
The United States is very committed to this effort and just wants to make sure that we all act together to really ensure we all act together," said Paula Dobriansky, head of the U.S. delegation.
"With that, Mr Chairman, let me say to you we will go forward and join consensus," she said to cheers and claps from delegates who had tried to break the impasse long after talks ran past their Friday deadline.
The proposal by the 150-nation developing country bloc dilutes the "mitigation actions," which the Bali "roadmap," asks developing nations to consider.
The new, stronger climate pact would succeed the existing Kyoto Protocol, and embrace the United States and major developing economies, such as China and India, in emissions actions for the first time.
Scientists say rising temperatures could cause seas to rise sharply, glaciers to melt, storms and droughts to become more intense and mass migration of climate refugees.
"We have the Bali roadmap. We are not entirely satisfied but the outcome is good," a senior Chinese delegate told Reuters.
Kyoto binds all industrial countries except the United States to cut emissions of greenhouse gases between 2008 and 2012. Developing nations are exempt and the new negotiations will seek to bind all countries to emission curbs from 2013