A U.N. climate conference adopted a plan Saturday to negotiate a new global warming pact, after the United States lifted opposition to a call by developing nations for technological help to battle rising temperatures.
The adoption came after marathon negotiations overnight, which first settled a battle between Europe and the U.S. over whether the document should mention specific goals for rich countries' obligations to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Upcoming talks, to be completed in 2009, may help determine for years to come how well the world can control climate change, and how severe global warming's consequences will be.
European and U.S. envoys dueled into the final hours of the two-week meeting over the European Union's proposal that the Bali mandate suggest an ambitious goal for cutting industrial nations' emissions -- by 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.
That guideline's specific numbers were eliminated from the text, but an indirect reference was inserted instead.
The negotiations snagged again early Saturday over demands by developing nations that their need for technological help from rich nations and other issues receive greater recognition in the document launching the negotiations.
But after delegates criticized the U.S. stand and urged a reconsideration, the Americans backed down.
"I think we have come a long way here," said Paula Dobriansky, head of the U.S. delegation. "In this, the United States is very committed to this effort and just wants to really ensure we all act together. We will go forward and join consensus."
The sudden reversal was met with rousing applause.
In a U.N. process requiring consensus, both sides won and lost.
The broadly worded "roadmap," in any event, doesn't itself guarantee any level of emissions reductions or any international commitment by any country -- only a commitment to negotiate.
As for developing countries, the final document instructs negotiators to consider incentives and other means to encourage poorer nations to curb, on a voluntary basis, growth in their emissions. The explosive growth of greenhouse emissions in China, India and other developing countries potentially could negate cutbacks in the developed world.
The Bali conference had been charged with launching negotiations for a regime of deeper emissions reductions to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which requires 37 industrial nations to cut output of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.
The United States is the only major industrial nation to reject Kyoto. U.S. President George W. Bush has complained that it would unduly damage the U.S. economy, and emission caps should have been imposed on China, India and other fast-growing developing countries.
The Bush administration instead favors a voluntary approach -- each country deciding how it can contribute -- in place of internationally negotiated and legally binding commitments.