Negotiators from around the world cleared the way today for the first treaty to combat global warming, challenging the United States to join the worldwide effort to curb polluting gases.
"We understand it is not a perfect protocol, but it is more imperfect with the withdrawal of the United States," said EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom.
Though the U.S. withdrawal in March punched a big hole in the treaty, the Europeans were determined to finally launch a climate change pact in the works for seven years, and they said Washington would be welcome to join.
Without the United States, which emits one-quarter of global greenhouse gases, the treaty loses considerable force. President Bush rejected the Kyoto Protocol as harmful to U.S. business and because it only applies to developed countries, omitting major polluters like China and India.
"It's a first step," EU chief negotiator Olivier Deleuze said. "To bring the United States on board, we first needed a boat. Now we have a boat."
Bush has promised his own proposals, but his delegation showed up in Bonn empty-handed.
At issue in the talks were rules to govern the Kyoto pact, which pledges industrialized nations to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, chiefly carbon dioxide from cars, power plants and factories.
During two sleepless nights of bargaining and phone calls between the Bonn delegates and their capitals, Japan emerged as the key holdout because of misgivings about the enforcement provisions.
Conference chairman Jan Pronk and key delegates holed up through the night and into this morning, bargaining over a draft accord he crafted to avoid a failure like at the last conference in November.
The breakthrough came at about 10 a.m. when Japanese Environment Minister Yuriko Kawaguchi looked at the latest compromise proposal "and said, basically, 'We can accept everything here,"' conference spokesman Michael Williams said.
Two hours later, Pronk signaled adoption of the draft with the rap of a gavel before the full conference. He was greeted by a standing ovation.
"It is very important to show that global developments can be met and addressed by globally responsible decision-making," Pronk, the Dutch environment minister, said, echoing a sense among delegates that globalization — vilified by demonstrators — can also be a force for progress.
The final deal included core agreements on enforcement, emission credits for forests that soak up carbon, aid to promote clean energy in poorer nations, and emissions trading — buying and selling the right to pollute.
Japan's last objection was against making penalties for countries that fail to meet their Kyoto targets legally binding. In the end, Tokyo agreed to have the dispute reconsidered later.
But with the United States standing aside, Japan remains the swing country in bringing the pact into force. The treaty must be ratified by 55 nations responsible for 55 percent of greenhouse gas emissions to take force.
Japan has refused to commit to ratification while tries to persuade the United States to join the pact.
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who broke the deadlock in telephone contacts with his minister in Bonn, insisted that U.S. participation was key.
"It is important that all countries act under one single rule," Koizumi said in a statement today.
U.S. Delegate Booed
Illustrating U.S. isolation at the talks, chief delegate Paula Dobriansky drew boos from the gallery today when she insited Washington is committed to tackling climate change.
"Although the United States does not intend to ratify that agreement, we have not sought to stop others from moving ahead, so long as legitimate U.S. interests were protected," she said.
"This does not change our view the Kyoto Protocol is not sound policy."
Dobriansky noted that the deal does not require the United States to fund any part of the treaty, one of Washington's chief concerns.
U.S. officials also said the emissions trading system is too restrictive and that industrial countries should have been given more voting power in the pact's enforcement bodies.
The EU offered a major concession by softening limits on how countries can offset obligations to cut pollution by counting the proper management of forests and farmlands, which absorb carbon dioxide.
To help developing nations trying to clean up emissions so they can one day join the treaty, the EU announced a $410 million fund.