U.N. delegates extend Kyoto accord

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DOHA, Qatar -- The annual United Nations climate change negotiations drew to a close here late Saturday after the customary all-night negotiating session and the recriminations over who should bear the costs and burdens of a warming planet.

Delegates from more than 190 nations agreed to extend the increasingly ineffective Kyoto Protocol for a few more years and to commit to more ambitious -- but unspecified -- actions to reduce emissions of climate-altering gases.

Wealthy nations put off for a year resolution of the dispute over providing billions of dollars in aid to countries most heavily affected by climate change. Industrial nations have pledged to secure $100 billion a year by 2020 in public and private financing to help poor countries cope with climate change, but have been vague about what they plan to do before then.

Only a handful of countries, not including the United States, have made concrete financial pledges for adaptation aid over the next few years. Todd D. Stern, the senior U.S. negotiator, said the United States would continue to provide substantial climate-related aid to vulnerable countries. But he said he was not in a position, given the fiscal cliff talks in Washington and the congressional budgeting process, to promise new U.S. financing.

The participants noted with "grave concern" the widening gap between what countries have promised to do to reduce emissions and the growing concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The parties declared it unlikely that on the current path the world would be able to keep global temperatures from rising less than two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) from pre-industrial times, a central goal of the U.N. process.

But the group left for future years any plan for addressing the mismatch between goals and reality, merely stating an intention to "identify and explore in 2013 options for a range of actions to close the pre-2020 ambition gap."

It has long been evident that the U.N. talks were at best a partial solution to the planetary climate change problem, and at worst an expensive sideshow. The most effective actions to date have been taken at the national, state and local levels.

While the U.S. has not adopted a comprehensive approach to climate change, the Obama administration has put in place a significant auto emissions reduction program and a plan to regulate carbon dioxide from new power plants. California has adopted a cap-and-trade system for 2013.

Other countries, including South Korea, Australia and most of Europe, started earlier and have gone much further. It is those kinds of efforts that hold the most promise, at least in the short term, for controlling a problem that scientists say is growing worse faster than any of them predicted even a few years ago.

world - environment


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