Local and international activists march inside a conferences center to demand urgent action to address climate change at the U.N. climate talks in Doha, Qatar, Friday, Dec.7, 2012. A dispute over money clouded U.N. climate talks Friday, as rich and poor countries sparred over funds meant to help the developing world cover the rising costs of mitigating global warming and adapting to it. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)

Alex Morales and Ewa Krukowska

The international effort to curb global warming inched forward with an agreement that extends pollution limits under the Kyoto Protocol and calls for work on a mechanism that would pay aid for climate-related disasters.

The deal, endorsed by ministers from more than 190 nations in Doha yesterday, restrains fossil fuel emissions from the EU to Australia. It also for the first time suggests a channel for richer countries to compensate poorer ones for “loss and damage” from rising sea levels and drought.

The biggest accomplishment of the annual UN conference was to streamline the discussions, paving the way for a global treaty by 2015 that would cut greenhouse gases from 2020. Both diplomats who negotiated the pact and environmental groups expressed frustration it would not have an immediate impact on the atmosphere.

“The results aren’t in keeping with what’s happening on the planet,” said Delphine Batho, the Ecology Minister of France, which has offered to host the 2015 meeting. “The impacts of global warming are accelerating. The deal here might appear derisory, but it’s better to have an agreement than none at all. It’s one more stage.”

This year’s gathering, involving about 17 000 delegates, was characterised by the UN as a housekeeping session to tie up loose strands from three parallel sets of discussions and focus on the one due to culminate in three years.

The complexity of the talks almost derailed the conference, with envoys working 27 hours past their deadline. Some left before the conclusion.

Marring the talks were rifts over the reluctance of developed nations to say how they will ramp up aid to the $100 billion (R865bn) a year they have pledged for climate projects by 2020. Recipient countries failed to get the roadmap they sought to generate $60bn over the three years through 2015.

Instead, EU donors promised at least E8.3bn (R92.7bn) by 2015. That is above the E7.2bn paid out in the three years through 2012 as the bloc’s contribution to $30bn of so-called fast-start finance. Envoys agreed to work on details by the end of 2013 on how the aid will be scaled up. “The major problem from my judgment was finance,” Evans Njewa, a diplomat from Malawi who is lead negotiator for the group of least developed countries, said. The text was “very weak in terms of commitments”.

Greenhouse gases from burning oil and coal are likely to hit a record this year. Without action, the temperature may rise 4ºC by the end of the century, according to the World Bank. That is the most since the end of the last ice age and double the UN target. Arctic sea ice shrank to its lowest on record soon, and ocean levels may rise 1m by end of the century, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research says.

EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard said: “The opportunity to keep below the two degree objective is closing fast. This is definitely not perfect, but it is an important step in the right direction.”

This year’s gathering did not contemplate pollution limits for countries beyond those in the 1997 Kyoto accord, which aimed to limit greenhouse gases in industrial nations through the end of this year.

Kyoto now covers about 15 percent of emissions globally. Canada, Japan, New Zealand and Russia renounced obligations under a second commitment period beginning next year. The US never ratified the pact, and developing nations from China to India never set binding goals. Developing countries see it as an important step by rich nations most responsible for global warming move first toward a solution.

The Doha meeting established rules for the second round of commitments for 37 nations and preserves the Kyoto framework until 2020, when the next agreement would come into force. – Bloomberg