NUSA DUA, INDONESIA — As delegates from nearly 200 countries began their final week of meetings here in Bali on global warming, U.S. representatives Monday insisted on removing firm targets for reducing carbon dioxide from draft guidelines for negotiating a successor to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, set to expire in 2012.
The guidelines, which will provide a "road map" for negotiations that will begin next year on a new climate treaty, now call for industrialized countries to achieve a 25% to 40% reduction in carbon emissions from 1990 levels by 2020.
"We don't want to start out with numbers," chief U.S. negotiator Harlan L. Watson said at a news conference. That would be "prejudging what the outcome would be."
But United Nations climate chief Yvo de Boer said such a reduction was critical to halting the runaway train of man-made global warming and stimulating investment in technologies to bring emissions under control.
The guidelines call for global carbon emissions to peak during the next 10 to 15 years, then be chopped to half of 2000 levels by the middle of the century.
The European Union has already agreed to accept a 20% cut in emissions by 2020, and climate negotiator Nuno Lacasta of Portugal, which holds the EU's rotating presidency, said a 50% reduction by 2050 was reasonable.
The EU has also been pushing to include a goal of limiting temperature rise to 2 degrees Fahrenheit, but that effort also seems likely to fail.
"Again, that is something that we don't feel will be helpful as a starting point," Watson said.
Because any agreement has to be unanimous, the U.S. and its allies, including Japan and Canada, are expected to prevail in their efforts to have firm figures removed from the guidelines before they are presented to the 10,000 delegates later this week.
China is resisting efforts to include a clause calling on developing nations to cut emissions, arguing that, at best, it can only hope to slow their growth.
The Bush administration has long argued that the Kyoto Protocol would choke the U.S. economy while leaving large developing countries, such as China and India, free to continue polluting.
The protocol binds 36 industrialized countries to lower their carbon dioxide emissions to 5% below 1990 levels by 2012, but it sets no goals for developing countries. China is expected to edge past the U.S. this year to become the largest source of greenhouse gases.
The United States, the only major industrialized nation to reject the Kyoto treaty, is widely seen as the outcast of Bali.
"I don't feel isolated, not at all," Watson said. "I'm very cordial with many delegations, some of which I disagree with. We're here to talk about the differences and try to resolve them."
For environmentalists and many delegations here on the Indonesian island, the major solace is the U.S. election next year.
"Everybody knows the negotiation goes for two years," said David D. Doniger, who directs climate policy for the Natural Resources Defense Council. "At halftime, it goes over to a new team."
Former Vice President Al Gore, who was in Stockholm on Monday to receive the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize along with members of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said, "The new president, whichever party wins the election, is likely to have to change the position on this climate crisis."
Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), who arrived in Bali on Sunday, echoed Gore's sentiment but noted that any significant change would require developing countries such as China, India and Brazil to take more aggressive steps to reduce emissions.
Zarembo reported from Nusa Dua and Maugh from Los Angeles.