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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Industrial Powers Sign Global Warming Pact

GENEVA -- Key world powers, led by the United States and the European Union, pledged Thursday to fight global warming by working for an early accord attacking gas emissions produced by the use of oil and coal.

The pledge came in a declaration -- which also won wide support from developing countries outside the oil-producer OPEC grouping -- written into the official record at a United Nations Conference on Climate Change.

The document was greeted by environmental groups as a new step forward in the battle against rising world temperatures, which a UN scientists' panel says presents a potential threat of global catastrophe in the next century.

But it was fiercely condemned by Saudi Arabia on behalf of most oil producers, including Russia, and rejected by Australia, the world's major exporter of coal and a major user of the fossil fuels that produce "greenhouse gases."

The declaration, which conference president Chen Chimutengwende of Zimbabwe said "commands a very wide consensus," commits its backers to work hard for a formal agreement by December 1997 on slashing carbon emissions.

The industrial powers agreed that they would push for an accord on "quantified, legally binding objectives for emission limitations" to be finalized at a new Climate Change conference in Kyoto, Japan, that would include "significant reductions."

The declaration said that among others this would include measures affecting energy, transport, industry, agriculture and forestry -- all areas where oil and coal are the prime source of energy.

Agreement on the declaration came when the United States stepped in to break a logjam in the two-week conference and announce a policy switch from backing only optional targets to reduce emissions to demanding mandatory ones backed by law.

The intervention, by Under-Secretary of State for Global Affairs Timothy Wirth, delighted environmentalists, although it did not go as far as they wanted, and infuriated a U.S.-heavy industry lobby, the Global Climate Coalition.

The GCC, and a similar Australian group, say it is not proven that human activity causes warming and argue emission cuts involving a reduction in the use of fossil fuels would cause economic disaster and loss of jobs.

Wirth and EU backers of stronger action than has so far been taken under the 1992 Climate Change Convention dismissed the GCC and other opponents as special interest groups fighting an inevitable switch to cleaner energy use.

The United States and the EU had originally hoped to have the declaration approved by the 150-nation gathering, at least by consensus.

Some delegations sympathetic to its aim, including Canada, argued they did not have a mandate to commit their governments to working to legally underpinned targets.

Saudi Arabia's Abdulbar al-Gain, head of the environmental department of his country's ministry of defense and civil aviation, said the document "fails to reflect the views of many parties" to the 1992 Convention.