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COP 17: "Durban outcome" debated as climate talks continue into overtime

DURBAN, South Africa — A "Durban outcome" package became the focus of negotiations as UN climate change talks continued late Saturday night and into Sunday morning, more than a day after the summit was supposed to end.

Plenary meetings continued past midnight, and it remained unclear whether a deal would be reached to replace the Kyoto Protocol when its carbon-emission limits expire at the end of December 2012. 

The UN climate summit, known as COP 17, had been scheduled to wrap up Friday after 12 days of negotiations. But with no deal in sight, delegates from more than 190 countries were forced to change travel plans and stay in Durban. Some representatives, in particular from developing countries, were unable to change flights and had to leave.

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The United States, India and China have been accused of holding up talks, and have clashed over the responsibilities of developed versus developing countries in reducing carbon emissions, what is known as "common but differentiated responsibilities."

Draft texts in Durban have grown incrementally weaker, with the latest text referring to curbs only after 2020, and with no mention of a legally-binding outcome.

But objections have remained, in particular from India, a major carbon-emitting developing country that has resisted binding cuts, and the EU, which said the text isn't strong enough and has continued to push for a legally-binding treaty.

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Host South Africa has been criticized for failing to keep the pressure throughout the conference, with the slow pace blamed for the lack of progress of talks.

South African international relations minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, who is the president of the conference, on Saturday evening urged negotiators to accept the "Durban outcome package," which includes a draft amendment to the Kyoto Protocol and a roadmap process for countries to work towards creating a new, binding climate change deal.

"Your years, months, weeks, days and nights have been spent leading to this day. You have stayed here one extra day," Nkoana-Mashabane said in brief remarks ahead of a "stock-taking plenary" by country delegates.

"Adopt these documents and make all of that effort count for something," she said.

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