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Climate Negotiators Face New ‘Ballgame’ After Durban, U.S. Says

Dec. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Negotiators on climate change won’t resume “hard-core” talks for a least a year after this week’s accord by developing nations to limit fossil-fuel emissions for the first time, U.S. lead negotiator Todd Stern said.

Countries will need to assess the agreement reached early Dec. 11 in Durban, South Africa, in which China, India and developing nations will draft a document with “legal force” by 2015 to curb pollution for all nations, Stern said today.

The accord ends the split, enshrined in the United Nations-led climate discussions since 1992, that let poorer nations escape commitments on burning coal and oil while requiring industrial nations to cut emissions. President Barack Obama, and George W. Bush before him, pushed for equal treatment after the Senate refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, which limits greenhouse gases for industrial nations.

“I don’t think there’s going to be a hard-core negotiation” in 2012, Stern said on a conference call with reporters. “Everything that has transpired up until now in the world of legal agreements in climate have all been focused just on developed countries. This is a different ballgame.”

The U.S. suggested the document refer to a “legal instrument” and backed the compromise, saying it was important to keep the Durban package on track. Environmental groups said the language may let nations get out of commitments.

“In the real world of international negotiations on this exceptionally difficult global commons problem, this is what success looks like,” Robert Stavins, director of Harvard University’s Environmental Economics Program in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said Dec. 12 on his blog.

Envoys from more than 190 nations also extended the Kyoto Protocol, the only ratified treaty limiting greenhouse gases.

“When you think about all sorts of questions, what sort of mitigation, what sort of transparency, what sort of accounting systems are you talking about, you’ve got to be thinking about it in terms that are going to apply more broadly,” Stern said. “It’s going to be an interesting period” that may “occupy a portion or even a substantial portion” of the coming year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jim Efstathiou Jr. in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Liebert at

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