United Nations climate negotiators on Sunday struck a compromise deal on a roadmap for an accord that will, for the first time, legally force all major carbon emitters to cut greenhouse gas emissions, ending days of wrangling between India and the European Union over the fate of the Kyoto protocol.
While the new pact to be finalised till 2015, will for the first time bring India and China under the ambit of a legal mechanism guiding emission cuts, the accord will go into effect only from 2020.
The pact on tackling climate change -- the agreement on which came after hard negotiations that ran 36 hours beyond schedule -- must be completed by 2015, and talks on the new legal deal covering all countries will begin next year, when Kyoto Protocol expires.
Under the compromise, while India and China agreed to bring themselves under a governing treaty, the developed nations agreed to a second commitment period under Kyoto Protocol, putting to rest concerns that they would walk away from commitments once the 1997 treaty expires in 2012.
Kyoto Protocol remains the only legally-binding treaty for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and India had batted hard for its revival at the 194-party conference in Durban.
Kyoto Protocol sets binding targets for 37 industrialised nations and the EU to slash carbon emissions to 5 per cent below the 1990 levels by 2012. Up to now, China and India have been exempt from any constraints because they are developing countries, while the US has opted out of the Kyoto Protocol.
During the conference, which was originally scheduled to close on Friday, the EU had pushed hard for a "roadmap" to a new, legally-binding treaty against fierce resistance from India and China, whose delegates argued that mandatory cuts would slow their growth and condemn millions to poverty.
"Am I to write a blank cheque and sign away the livelihoods and sustainability of 1.2 billion Indians, without even knowing what the EU 'roadmap' contains?" asked Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan. "Please do not hold us hostage."
The final text of the Durban conference said parties would "develop a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force". That compromise averted the use of "legally-binding".
"The equity of burden-sharing cannot be shifted," Natarajan said, while rejecting the EU proposal which, she argued, undermined the two-decade-old principle that developing nations had less responsibility than industrialised countries.
The intense debate went on past midnight last night, prompting Conference President and South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane to call a recess.
Nkoana-Mashabane gave Natarajan and European Commissioner Connie Hedegaard 10 minutes to come up with a compromise formula.
After their talks, India and EU agreed to the compromised formula, with Natarajan saying: "We have shown our flexibility and we have agreed to this...."
UNFCCC chief Christiana Figueres seemed happy with the outcome at the Durban talks. "In honour of Mandela: It always seems impossible until
it is done. And it is done," Figueres tweeted, citing the words of the former South African President and anti-apartheid icon.