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Nations Salvage Deal To Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Manuel Pulgar-Vidal (center), Peru's environment minister, applauds on Saturday after delegates to the Lima climate conference agreed on a deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Kyodo /Landov
Manuel Pulgar-Vidal (center), Peru's environment minister, applauds on Saturday after delegates to the Lima climate conference agreed on a deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Updated at 11:00 a.m. ET

Representatives from around the world have reached the first-ever deal committing all nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions, but rejected a rigorous overview to monitor compliance.

The United Nations agreement was salvaged from talks that went into overtime and wrapped up 30 hours behind schedule, as negotiators from 196 parties struggled with determining who needed to cut and by how much.

Many developing countries accuse richer nations of ignoring the damage they've already inflicted on the climate. Small, low-lying island nations have also demanded financial compensation for losses they're experienced as a result of rising sea levels.

NPR's Christopher Joyce reports that the text does "include a promise that all countries, developed and developing, will offer targets to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases." Developing countries, he says "won assurances that they will not be held to the same level of commitment as rich countries."

According to The Associated Press, delegates: "argued all day Saturday over the wording of the decision, with developing nations worried that the text blurred the distinction between what rich and poor countries can be expected to do. The AP says:

"The final draft alleviated those concerns with language saying countries have 'common but differentiated responsibilities' to deal with global warming."

The New York Times adds:

"The agreement requires every nation to put forward, over the next six months, a detailed domestic policy plan to limit its emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases from burning coal, gas and oil. Those plans, which would be published on a United Nations website, would form the basis of the accord to be signed next December and enacted by 2020.

"That basic structure represents a breakthrough in the impasse that has plagued the United Nations' 20 years of efforts to create a serious global warming deal. Until now, negotiations had followed a divide put in place by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which required developed countries to act but did not demand anything of developing nations, including China and India, two of the largest greenhouse gas polluters."

However, the BBC notes:"Environmental groups have criticised the deal as a weak and ineffectual compromise, saying it weakens international climate rules.

The draft, for instance, weakened language that would have required nations to include quantifiable targets for reducing emissions. The document now says they "may" provide such data, instead of "shall," according to AP.

Also, China — the world's top carbon polluter — successfully opposed wording that would have committed it and other major developing countries to a review process.

"As a text it's not perfect, but it includes the positions of the parties," Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, the Peruvian environment minister who presided over the talks, acknowledged.

The five-page agreement, known as the Lima Call for Climate Action, represents the broad brushstrokes of a final deal to be hammered out in Paris a year from now.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.