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Sunday 4 December 2016

Pressure on to conclude climate deal by deadline

Published 10/12/2015 | 02:30

Greenpeace activists hold signs reading 'Action Now' in front of Greenpeace's giant puppet polar bear Aurora during a protest at the climate change conference in Paris yesterday
Greenpeace activists hold signs reading 'Action Now' in front of Greenpeace's giant puppet polar bear Aurora during a protest at the climate change conference in Paris yesterday

UN climate talks have entered a critical stage as negotiators race against time to produce an ambitious deal by tomorrow's deadline.

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Delegates from almost 200 countries worked into the early hours of this morning as the French presidency of the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) released a draft text of a deal, which runs to just 29 pages.

Crucially, it includes a demand from vulnerable nations to limit average temperature increases to no more than 1.5C.

But NGOs have criticised the omission of the aviation and shipping sectors from any deal, and said that many key issues remained unresolved.

Among the issues yet to be decided is an agreement on limiting average global temperature rises to prevent dangerous climate change - options include a maximum of 2C, 'well below' 2C or below 1.5C.

There are also ongoing discussions about funding for vulnerable countries to help them adapt, and the different levels of responsibility which will apply to developed and developing countries, known as differentiation.

Environment Minister Alan Kelly, who is involved in the negotiations, said reaction to the draft text appeared positive, and there did not appear to be as many contentious issues as arose in previous COPs.

A major issue which had to be finalised was verification, where country pledges to reduce emissions could be confirmed, he said.

"The temperature of the text is being taken at the moment but it looks very positive," he said.

"I think the major stumbling block is transparency, and how it is measured. I believe that the sharing of information is the one key issue that needs to be resolved. You ultimately are down to three or four core issues."

But Dr Lorna Gold, from aid agency Trocaire, said she was disappointed with the progress to date.

"The mood music is better, but we're very concerned that many of the critical issues remain undecided," she said.

"The language on key issues such as food security and human rights has been worsened in this updated text. Positive references have been removed, while worrying and inappropriate language remains."

COP president Laurent Fabius said the number of points to be clarified by ministers had been reduced by 75pc, and that he was "absolutely convinced" there would be an agreement.

On the long-term goal of decarbonising the economy, the draft text presents two very different options - one suggests reducing emissions between 40pc-70pc by 2050, or by 70pc-95pc in the same period.

It also calls for a reduction to zero emissions "by the end" or "by the middle" of the century.

The second calls for long-term low global emissions over the course of the century, which is a source of concern for observers as it fails to tie down an ambitious target.

The text also calls for a review of the deal, but a timeline has not been decided.

Paris diary

Reluctant Saudi Arabia pleads poverty

In all negotiations there’s always a villain, and Saudi Arabia now stands accused of trying to scupper a deal in Paris.

Campaign group Climate Action Network says moving away from fossil fuels is making the kingdom “nervous”, with suggestions it may block a deal.

The reason? Blindingly obvious really, given how much oil it produces, but the Saudis are also reportedly claiming to be too poor. What might help? Being given financial assistance to buy new green technology and – here’s the rub – being compensated for leaving their oil in the ground.

- It’s not every day you see a polar bear in Paris, but one landed at COP21 yesterday, albeit a two-storey mechanical beast whose presence was aimed at focusing negotiators’ minds on striking a deal.

The bear, named Aurora, was the centrepiece of a demonstration among civil society activists demanding climate action.

Irish Independent

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