Climate negotiators strike last-minute deal

Dozens of countries reached a climate change agreement in Warsaw on Saturday, overcoming a rift between developing and more established economies.

In the talks, fast-growing economies like China and India won more lenient climate change guidelines than the U.S. and European countries originally wanted.

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Countries will now make “contributions” toward reducing emissions over the next two years, instead of “commitments,” after what media reports described as negotiations that helped drive the U.N. talks in Warsaw into an extra day.

Todd Stern, the federal government’s special envoy for climate change, said Warsaw “was quite a tough negotiation” but also “quite useful.”

"This is a quintessentially global problem, so you have to have action all over the world. Climate change isn’t local - the carbon you emit anywhere in the world affects everywhere in the world,” Stern said.

“It gives a strong message to civil society and the private sector that this is going to be dealt with at the global level.”

Developing and developed countries have long been on different pages when it comes to tackling climate change. 

But even a narrow agreement at Warsaw, where close to 200 countries took part, could help lay the groundwork for a longer-term agreement in 2015. Negotiators are scheduled to meet in Paris that year to discuss a potential global climate change agreement.

On Twitter, Connie Hedegaad, the European Union’s commissioner for climate action, acknowledged the difficulty negotiators had in finding an agreement. “I’m sure there are more comfortable ways” to Paris in 2015, she sad, “but now we can move forward.”

Outside groups pushing for action on climate change said, that while the U.N. efforts in Warsaw might have found an agreement, countries still need to pick up the pace.

“In the nick of time, negotiators in Warsaw delivered just enough to keep things moving,” said Jennifer Morgan of the World Resources Institute.

“World leaders better get their act together quickly. If they show up empty-handed in 2015 and don’t secure a strong international agreement, they’ll be known as the generation that clearly saw the growing threat of global climate change, and failed to try to stop it,” said Jake Schmidt of the Natural Resources Defense Council.