After more than four hours of afternoon delay Saturday during which Russia, Belarus and Ukraine were discussing options, negotiators hurried back just before 7 p.m. into the plenary hall. Over Russian objections, al-Attiyah gaveled through each part of the package, declaring "It is decided" to applause after each passage.
"It is difficult for me to believe that you didn't hear the sounds of the nameplate when I banged it on the table within, which is not in line with Russian diplomacy," Russian negotiator Oleg Shamanov said. He reserved the right to appeal the Kyoto decision, which al-Attiyah merely noted for the record.
The European Union, Australia, Japan, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway and Switzerland all made political declarations that they would not purchase the assigned amount units (AAUs) carried over from the first commitment period.
U.S. collides with island nations
Meanwhile, a new issue called "loss and damage" threw the United States back on its heels.
Vulnerable countries demanded a process to address the effects of extreme weather events on their lands and the consequences of damaging effects of climate change that cannot be avoided. The United States, fearing such a mechanism would open it up to liability, pushed back hard.
Talks became so heated that a Barbados negotiator walked out of a closed-door ministers' meeting just before 1 a.m. with tears in his eyes. Island nations threatened to go home with nothing rather than accept defeat on the issue, and talks continued past 3 a.m. in small huddles.
Ultimately, the Doha Gateway Package compromises, calling for a decision in 2013 on "institutional arrangements, such as an international mechanism" on loss and damage.
"The United States couldn't accept having a mechanism, and [islands] couldn't accept it being ruled out," said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. "This keeps it on the table."
Stern insisted the United States didn't change its position on the issue, saying "It's a negotiation." The final agreement, he said, "met somewhere in the middle."
What did draw U.S. objection was a single line in the preamble of a document charting a path on the new post-2020 global emissions deal. The offending passage said work "shall be guided by the principles of the Convention" -- a seemingly innocuous and bureaucratic phrase that is loaded with subtext.
Stern said in objecting to the line he wanted there to be no question that, come 2020, all countries would be legally obligated to cut carbon.
"People can read that in a way that is not fully consistent with what happened last year," Stern said. "What we don't want to see are any kind of code words that are designed to change the mandate of the Durban platform, or in any way walk it back."
Jennifer Morgan, director of climate and energy policy at the World Resources Institute think tank, said, "I think countries got to where they needed here in Doha to open a new chapter in the negotiations. But it wasn't pretty."
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500