Nations devising ways to reverse global warming agreed Friday to strengthen a climate treaty in a somewhat indirect way: They made plans to make future plans.
As the U.N. Climate Conference wound down to a close, delegates agreed to set new objectives by 1997 for more cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by developed countries.Negotiators had already agreed on an issue central to fighting global warming - how to begin transferring clean energy technology from rich to poor nations.
A breakthrough came after the United States and Canada backed down from a demand that developing countries commit to future, albeit unspecified, measures to battle global warming.
China led developing nations in resisting such language, and European Union nations supported that stance in negotiations among 15 environment ministers, including U.S. Undersecretary of State Timothy Wirth.
Delegates said the draft document agreed to before the ministers' meeting broke up early today sets neither concrete goals nor timetables for further reductions of greenhouse gas emissions, as many had hoped.
But it calls for strengthening commitments and suggests 2005 and 2010 as time frames - language pushed by the Europeans, said Svend Auken, Denmark's environment minister.
"Compared to the magnitude of the problem and what we could do, it's a meager outcome," Auken said. "But compared to what one could expect politically, it's a good outcome."
The American delegation resisted stronger language because it will have to sell the proposal to Congress' new Republican leadership, which has virtually eliminated environmental issues from its agenda.
The Berlin conference follows the 1992 Rio treaty, under which 24 developed countries agreed to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases blamed for global warming. The treaty calls for reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2000.