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UN Climate Conference Extends Kyoto Protocol

UN Convention on Climate Change Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, second left, speaks during a press conference alongside Qatar's Deputy Prime Minister and president of the 18th United Nations Convention on Climate Change, Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, second and on screens in Doha, Qatar, Dec. 3, 2012.
Nearly 200 countries that took part in United Nations climate talks in Doha have agreed to extend the Kyoto Protocol through 2020. The 1997 agreement, which requires industrialized nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions, had been set to expire on December 31.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon welcomed the outcome of the conference. But Ban's spokesperson says the secretary-general believes "far more needs to be done." A U.N. statement said Ban calls on governments, businesses, civil society and citizens to accelerate action on the ground in order to limit the rise in global temperature to the international target of 2 degrees Celsius.

Jennifer Morgan, director of the Climate and Energy Program at the Washington-based research center World Resources Institute, agreed that nations must do more. She said the agreement reached Saturday is "far from what is needed" to tackle the problem.

"There was really no additional ambition that came in to the conference," said Morgan. "There were a few important announcements by the Dominican Republic and Lebanon of their plans to reduce emissions, but none of the big countries did."

Negotiations will now move forward on a new legally-binding agreement that applies to all countries. The aim is to adopt the treaty by 2015. It would take effect in 2020 as a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol.

Although the progress made in Doha was less than hoped, Morgan says the 12-day conference "turned a new page" in the climate talks, streamlining the discussions from several tracks of negotiations into one. She said it sets the stage for more ambitious commitments in the future.

"Although these negotiations are very disappointing in a way, I think it's important to point to where the change needs to occur, and I can say that if certain large countries [or regions], whether that be the U.S. or Europe or China or Japan, [if they] were to change their stance towards these negotiations, they would happen a lot faster, and I'm pretty sure there would be much more ambition," she said.

The conference was due to end Friday, but it was extended into Saturday because delegates remained divided over how to stop climate change and how to pay for it.

Developing countries were pushing to extend the Kyoto Protocol. They also called for firm commitments from developed nations to boost aid for them to $100 billion annually by 2020 - a general pledge that was made three years ago. But rich nations, including the United States, have not been willing to commit to specific funding targets.

The United States has never ratified the Kyoto agreement. Other countries opting out of the extension include Canada, Japan, New Zealand and Russia. The abstentions mean the second phase of the protocol will only cover developed nations that are responsible for 15 percent or less of global emissions.

A spate of scientific reports released during the two-week meeting provided compelling new evidence that the Earth's climate is warming. They also predicted dire consequences - from rising sea levels to more severe droughts, floods and storms - unless action is taken to reduce climate-changing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions.

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