Another round of climate negotiations, another vague promise to commit to something in the distant future and another slow-motion step toward disaster for the world’s poor and vulnerable. The Durban deal puts the U.N.’s 194 nations on track to begin negotiating a legally binding pact by 2015, six years after we were told to expect such a treaty in Copenhagen.

After two days of deadlock, delegates salvaged the talks by changing the words “legal outcome” to the substantially more slippery “agreed outcome with legal force under the convention applicable to all parties.” That injection of hot air into a corpse of a deal was enough to bring Indian negotiator Jayanthi Natarajan back to the table to declare the process operable. The earlier language made her concerned that India would be legally bound to curtail its economic development.

Negotiators did not commit to renewing the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in December 2012, and instead called for an extension until 2017 or 2020. That leaves the “real” deciding for next year’s talks in Qatar. –ARK

Kate Sheppard with Mother Jones:

Of course, the change still leaves the agreement, termed the “Durban Platform for Enhanced Action,” somewhat vague. Even if negotiations on a new legal agreement are set to begin … in 2015, it’s not clear when they’d conclude. It also reaffirms the goal of holding global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), notes with “grave concern” that the pledges listed won’t meet that goal, and launches a “work plan” to consider improving those targets. But countries are still continuing pledges that put the world on a path toward 4 degrees C warming (7 degrees F).

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