A UN climate conference reached a hard-fought agreement today on a complex and far-reaching program meant to set a new course for the global fight against climate change for the coming decades. The 194-party conference agreed to start negotiations on a new accord that would put all countries under the same legal regime enforcing commitments to control greenhouse gases, starting in 2020 at the latest. The US was a reluctant supporter, concerned about agreeing to join an international climate system that likely would find much opposition in the US Congress.
The deal includes collecting and distributing tens of billions of dollars a year to poor countries. It also lays out rules for monitoring and verifying emissions reductions, protecting forests, transferring clean technologies to developing countries, and scores of technical issues. Currently, only industrial countries have legally binding emissions targets under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. Those commitments expire next year, but they will be extended for another 5 years—a key demand by developing countries seeking to preserve the only existing treaty regulating carbon emissions. (Read more climate change stories.)