SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Coming up, from a slum in Nairobi to college in Manchester, England.

But first, the new climate deal finally came to life today in Bali in extraordinarily dramatic fashion. The talks were supposed to end Friday, but they spilled deep into Saturday. First, it seemed that the Indian delegation would stop a deal, then it appeared the United States would, but the U.S. had a change of heart. The result is a document called the Bali Roadmap, which includes measures for preserving tropical rainforests, helping poor countries adapt to a green economy. The roadmap is supposed to guide the world to a new climate treaty over the next two years to take up where the Kyoto treaty leaves off.

NPR's Richard Harris reports.

RICHARD HARRIS: It took more than 10 days to get close to an agreement in Bali. Schisms, as usual, appeared between the United States and a more aggressively green Europe. And just as those were patched up, a bigger problem arose between the developed and the developing world. A long simmering issue is how strongly the developing countries like China should be compelled at some point to limit their emissions too. Final sessions at these meetings usually seal done-deals, but it was not so in this case. The deal seemed so fragile, the United Nations secretary general flew in from East Timor to plea for a climate agreement. The president of Indonesia came too and exhorted the negotiators on to success.

But in this final session of the talks, India proposed some new language that would ease somewhat the obligations of the developing world. United States representative Paula Dobriansky asked to speak. She said the United States would stick by its long-held position that developing countries ultimately have to limit their emissions, too.

Ms. PAULA DOBRIANSKY (Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs, U.S. State Department): We would like to find a way forward here. We are not prepared to accept, though, this formulation at this time.

HARRIS: The vast meeting room erupted with boos. By this time, the meeting had already run on 20 hours longer than it was supposed to, and the prospect of yet another delay seemed quite likely fatal to the talks. And there was much in this agreement that everyone wanted, for example, a plan to help compensate developing nations as an incentive not to chop down their tropical forests and significant new aid for poor countries most vulnerable to climate change. Quickly, delegations sided with the developing world.

Kevin Conrad, representing Papua New Guinea, turned to the United States representative as he lit in.

Mr. KEVIN CONRAD (Executive Director, Coalition for Rainforest Nations, Papua New Guinea): We ask for your leadership, we seek your leadership, but if for some reason you're not willing to lead, leave it to the rest of us. Please get out of the way.

(Soundbite of applause)

HARRIS: America's strong allies also piled on opposing the United States including South Africa's representative to the talks, Marthinus van Schalkwyk.

Mr. MARTHINUS van SCHALKWYK (Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, South Africa): The reference by the representative of the United States to developing countries not accepting their full responsibilities is most unwelcome and without any basis.

(Soundbite of applause)

HARRIS: Speech after speech made it clear the United States was isolated on this. If they stuck by their position, the talks would fail and the United States would bear the blame. So all eyes turned to U.S. representative Paula Dobriansky when she raised her sign and asked to speak again:

Mr. DOBRIANSKY: I especially want to reassure my dear friend from South Africa that I think that we have come a long way here, and, in fact, in this, the United States is very committed to this effort and just want to really insure that we all will act together. So with that, Mr. Chairman, let me say to you that we will go forward and join consensus in this today.

(Soundbite of applause)

HARRIS: Why the United States nearly killed the treaty and then pulled back at the last moment is surely a story of intrigue in itself. Whatever happened, there was a huge sigh of relief in the room. And with no other objections, the conference president asked for a consensus as is required for United Nations negotiations. Nobody objected. His gavel came down and the deal was done. The roadmap will chart a path forward for a new climate treaty. The details of that get negotiated in more meetings like this one between now and 2009.

Richard Harris, NPR News, Bali.

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