Officials at the United Nations climate conference in Bali, Indonesia extended closed-door talks into Saturday, as they neared resolution in a dispute over targets for greenhouse-gas emissions cuts.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was to arrive on the island later Saturday morning, either to announce the successful launching of the "Bali Road Map" negotiations or to help break any lingering impasse.
Yvo de Boer, the UN climate chief, said late Friday the talks were going "slower than I had expected." Still, he thought the conference was "on the brink of agreement."
"People are working very hard to resolve outstanding issues," he said.
Bali Road Map
The negotiating agenda set at Bali and the results of two years of negotiations to follow will help determine for decades how well the world can hold down its rising temperatures.
Delegates for days had sparred over the wording of the conference's main decision document. Its most contentious passage was the European Union's suggestion of a goal of reducing emissions by between 25 percent and 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020—a target the United States did not think should be binding.
Trying to break the deadlock, the conference president, Indonesia's Environment Minister Rachmat Witoelar, proposed revised language dropping those mid-range numbers but still reaffirming that emissions should be reduced at least by half by 2050.
De Boer told reporters the mid-range of 25 percent to 40 percent was implicit—"an inevitable stop on that road"—in the 50 percent goal for the middle of the century.
Witoelar's proposal provided a basis for the expected compromise, producing a relatively vague mandate for two years of negotiations. As worded, his draft Bali Road Map did not guarantee any level of binding commitment by any nation.
The draft was to instruct negotiators to consider incentives and other means to encourage less developed nations to curb, on a voluntary basis, growth in their emissions.
De Boer said worldwide public opinion forced the more than 180 national delegations here to find a way to agree, as they continue talking about an emissions regime to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.