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Climate talks end with deal that's 'not where we wanted to be'

Osama Faisal / AP

Activists criticizing what they called a slow pace to climate talks protest Saturday at the convention center in Qatar. Norway's environment minister, Bard Vegar, speaks to some of them.

DOHA, Qatar -- Almost 200 nations on Saturday extended until 2020 a weak international plan for fighting global warming, averting a new setback to two decades of U.N. efforts that have failed to halt rising greenhouse gas emissions. 

The eight-year extension of the Kyoto Protocol keeps it alive as the sole legally binding plan for combating global warming. But it was sapped by the withdrawal of Russia, Japan and Canada, so its signatories now account for only 15 percent of global greenhouse emissions.

A package of decisions, known as the Doha Climate Gateway, would also postpone until 2013 a dispute over demands from developing nations for more cash to help them cope with global warming.

All sides say the Doha decisions fell far short of recommendations by scientists for tougher action.

Though expectations were low for the two-week conference, many developing countries rejected the deal as insufficient to put the world on track to fight the rising temperatures that are raising sea levels. Some Pacific island nations see this as a threat to their existence.

"This is not where we wanted to be at the end of the meeting, I assure you," said Nauru Foreign Minister Kieren Keke, who leads an alliance of small island states. "It certainly isn't where we need to be in order to prevent islands from going under and other unimaginable impacts."

"It was not an easy ride. It was not a beautiful ride. It was not a fast ride, but we managed to cross the bridge and hopefully we can increase our speed," added European Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard.

She said the deal would pave the way to talks on a new, global U.N. pact meant be agreed in 2015 and enter into force in 2020, when Kyoto now expires. It will have emissions goals for all, including emerging nations led by China and India.

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which controls the greenhouse gas emissions of rich countries, expires this year. However, the second phase only covers about 15 percent of global emissions after Canada, Japan, New Zealand and Russia opted out.

Originally, Kyoto obliged about 35 industrialized nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions by an average of at least 5.2 percent below 1990 levels during the period from 2008 to 2012.

The U.S. never joined Kyoto, partly because it didn't include China and other fast-growing developing countries.

Poor countries came into the talks in Doha demanding a timetable on how rich countries would scale up climate change aid for them to $100 billion annually by 2020 — a general pledge that was made three years ago.

But rich nations -- including the United States, members of the European Union and Japan -- are still grappling with the effects of a financial crisis and were not interested in detailed talks on aid in Doha.

The agreement on financing made no reference to any mid-term financing targets, just a general pledge to "identify pathways for mobilizing the scaling up of climate finance."

The two-week U.N. meeting had been due to end on Friday but the talks went on into Saturday evening.

World carbon dioxide emissions are set to rise by 2.6 percent this year, and are more than 50 percent higher than in 1990. Recent growth has come mostly from emerging nations, led by China and India.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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