By Karl Ritter
WARSAW, Poland -- Avoiding a last-minute breakdown, annual U.N. climate talks limped forward Saturday with a modest set of decisions meant to pave the way for a new pact to fight global warming.
More than 190 countries agreed in Warsaw to start preparing "contributions" for the new deal, which is supposed to be adopted in 2015.
That term was adopted after China and India objected to the word "commitments" in a standoff with the U.S. and other developed countries.
The fast-growing economies say they are still developing countries and shouldn't have to take on commitments to cut carbon emissions as strict as those of industrialized nations.
"In the nick of time, negotiators in Warsaw delivered just enough to keep things moving," said Jennifer Morgan, of the World Resources Institute, an environmental think tank.
The conference also advanced a program to reduce deforestation and established a "loss and damage" mechanism to help island states and other vulnerable countries under threat from rising seas, extreme weather and other climate impacts.
The wording was vague enough to make rich countries feel comfortable that they weren't going to be held liable for climate catastrophes in the developing world.
U.S. and other rich countries also resisted demands to put down firm commitments on how they plan to fulfill a pledge to scale up climate financing to developing countries to $100 billion by 2020.
That money is meant to help developing countries transition to cleaner energy sources and adapt to shifts in climate that can affect agriculture, human health and economies in general.
"I think we had a good outcome in the end," U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern said. "It was quite a tough negotiation."
The U.N. climate talks were launched two decades ago after scientists warned that humans were warming the planet by pumping carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, primarily through the burning of fossil fuels. So far they've failed to reduce those emissions.
Historically, most emissions have come from the industrialized nations, but the developing world is catching up fast, driven by rapid growth in major countries, including India, Brazil and China, the world's top carbon polluter.