DURBAN, South Africa - A package of documents was submitted to a marathon U.N. climate conference Saturday that would set a new course for the global fight against climate change for decades to come.
South Africa's foreign minister and chairman of the 194-party conference, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, told delegates that failure to agree after 13 days of work would be an unsustainable setback for international efforts to control greenhouse gases.
"This multilateral system remains fragile and will not survive another shock," she told a full meeting of the conference, which had been delayed more than 24 hours while ministers and senior negotiators labored over words and nuances.
There was no guarantee the package would be approved, and objections and amendments were submitted from the floor. The convention operates by consensus, and the package will not be put up for a vote.
"There is still a lot of work to be done," European Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said as she headed into the full plenary session where the deal was being presented. "Things are progressing."
Earlier as negotiations dragged on, some ministers and top negotiators left Durban with no assurance of an agreement. Hedegaard, drawn and fatigued after two nights with minimal sleep, warned that failure in Durban would jeopardize new momentum in acting against global warming.
Nkoana-Mashabane said the package of four documents, which were being printed as she spoke, were an imperfect compromise, but they reflected years of negotiations on issues that had plagued U.N. climate efforts.
The 100-plus pages would give new life to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, whose carbon emissions targets expire next year and apply only to industrial countries.
A separate document obliges major developing nations like China and India, excluded under Kyoto, to accept legally binding emissions targets in the future, by 2020 at the latest.
Together, the two documents overhaul a system designed 20 years ago that divide the world into a handful of wealthy countries facing legal obligations to reduce emissions, and the rest of the world which could undertake voluntary efforts to control carbon.
The European Union, the primary bloc falling under the Kyoto Protocol's reduction commitments, said an extension of its targets was conditional on major developing countries also accepting limits with the same legal accountability. The 20th century division of the globe into two unequal parts was invalid in today's world, the EU said.
The package also would set up the structure and governing bodies of a Green Climate Fund, which will receive and distribute billions of dollars promised annually to poor countries to help them adapt to changing climate conditions and to move toward low-carbon economic growth.
But the document made no specific mention of how those funds would be mobilized. Wealthy countries have pledged $100 billion a year by 2020 to poor countries, scaling up from $10 billion today.
The remaining document of more than 50 pages lays out rules for monitoring and verifying emissions reductions, protecting forests, transferring clean technologies to developing countries and scores of technical issues.