United Nations climate talks ended Saturday with a last-ditch agreement to set a timetable in the future to make goals that will hopefully one day comprise part of a future pact on climate change. If that doesn't sound much like progress, it took an agonizing effort to broker even that resolution.
Talks in Warsaw, Poland, started two weeks ago with limited hope for a large-scale fix, but their end tempered ambitions even further. "By taking us to the brink of collapse, looking over the edge and then pulling back, we come away feeling delighted that any progress has been made at all," said Jonathan Grant, director of sustainability and climate change for PricewaterhouseCoopers.
That "progress" comes in the form of an agreement for each country to provide emissions goals by the time international climate delegates meet again in Paris in 2015. The deal also provides some aid for poor countries suffering from the effects of climate change.
The first sign of trouble for these talks came early, when Warsaw was selected as the host site. Environmental groups weren't pleased that one of Europe's heaviest coal-burning countries would serve as the backdrop to discussions on how to cut emissions. Meanwhile, the event's Polish organizers drew heat for a blog post suggesting — tongue-in-cheek, apparently — that melting ice would open new opportunities to chase "pirates, terrorists, and ecologists."