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UN Envoys Debate Climate Pact Amid Divisions on Legal Outcome

December 10, 2011

Dec. 10 (Bloomberg) -- Envoys from more than 190 countries began debating a package to fight global warming, though they remained divided about the legal nature of a future accord.

Negotiators at United Nations-led talks in Durban, South Africa, started formal consideration of measures linking progress on a new accord including all countries to extending the Kyoto Protocol, the world’s only treaty aimed at curbing greenhouse gases.

Nations are clashing over a proposal that calls on them to craft a “protocol or another legal instrument” to lower fossil fuel emissions and reduce the threat of global warming. The U.S. accepted the plan being pushed by the European Union. Other countries remain opposed, according to EU delegates.

“One of the biggest concessions of the last 24 hours was the fact that the Americans said they are prepared to live with the language,” U.K. Energy Secretary Chris Huhne said in an interview in Durban. He declined to say who opposes the plan.

Other countries want to include the phrase “legal outcome,” language rejected by EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard as too vague.

The 27-nation EU bloc has pressed for a new accord that’s “legally binding,” though later accepted compromise language calling for a “legal instrument.” The EU says “legal outcome” is a deal breaker.

“It’s unacceptable to the vast majority of the participants here,” Huhne said.

The EU had said it wouldn’t extend Kyoto’s emissions limits beyond next year unless all countries agree to start talks for a new accord that’s “legally binding,” a phrase rejected by the U.S. on the grounds that China, the world’s biggest greenhouse- gas emitter, isn’t willing to fully participate in such a treaty.

Legal Form

Now that the EU, the U.S. and Brazil have reached agreement on language calling for a “legal instrument,” the “big unknown” is where China and India stand, Norway’s climate change envoy, Henrik Harboe, said in an interview.

“They are very unclear,” he said. “I think both of them are very afraid of ending up with the blame.”

Negotiators for both China and India declined to comment.

Envoys in Durban are also considering a governing instrument for the Green Climate Fund, which would help channel part of the $100 billion a year in aid rich nations have promised by 2020 to help developing countries fight climate change.

The UN climate negotiations have dragged 24 hours beyond their deadline to finish.

--With assistance from Ewa Krukowska in Durban, South Africa. Editors: Reed Landberg, Andres R. Martinez

To contact the reporters on this story: Kim Chipman in Durban, South Africa at; Alex Morales in Durban, South Africa at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reed Landberg at

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