Monday 5 December 2016

Climate change talks in Paris to run day longer than expected as negotiators work through the night

Published 11/12/2015 | 08:00

Activists of global anti-poverty charity Oxfam wearing masks depicting some of the world leaders – US President Barack Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping, French President François Hollande, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull – during a protest in Paris
Activists of global anti-poverty charity Oxfam wearing masks depicting some of the world leaders – US President Barack Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping, French President François Hollande, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull – during a protest in Paris

CLIMATE talks in Paris will run a day longer than expected after negotiators worked through the night to try and resolve areas of disagreement.

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The French President of the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21), Laurent Fabius, said he was confident of reaching a “universal agreement” and that things were moving in the “right direction”.

His comments came after the latest draft text of a deal was published late last night, which showed a marked reduction in the number of issues yet to be agreed.

There were 361 sections in brackets that denote disagreement in an earlier draft on Wednesday. That has now been reduced to 50, according to a team that have been tracking the text called Paris Agreement News.

There's 1,200 words in brackets – around 6pc of the text.

Countries had two hours to look at the draft text before returning to meetings, which went overnight for the second night in a row.

They are expected to continue throughout today with a view to reaching agreement tomorrow, a day later than expected.

A number of key issues have been decided.

The parties have agreed to hold the increase in average global temperatures to “well below” 2C, and to aim for an upper limit of 1.5C – this was a key demand from small island states.

However, there are some suggestions that this is a largely political gesture, and that it is too late to limit warming to 1.5C. In addition, there is no pathway as to how this can be achieved.

The text also agrees to reach a peak for greenhouse gas emissions “as soon as possible” and to make “rapid reductions” after.

In the second half of the century, the amount of greenhouse gas emissions will stabilise, which is referred to as “greenhouse gas emissions neutrality”. This means you can only burn fossil fuels if there is increased afforestration and carbon sinks to compensate.

However, there is deep disquiet that this provision gives parties a 50-year time frame to curb emissions. NGOs want zero emissions by 2050, and say the draft text is too woolly.

The headline figure on finance has been addressed, with parties committed to providing €100bn for developing nations from 2020. There is a provision that countries including China and India will contribute over time.

However, it is not yet clear how developing nations will access the money.

On ambition, there is also a requirement that parties provide more ambitious pledges to reduce emissions by 2019, which will be reviewed every five years.

However, many issues remain unresolved. A system of verifying if emissions have been cut has yet to be agreed. Some countries including the US are insisting that all countries will eventually have to account and report in similar ways, with regular reviews.

The issue of meeting the cost of loss and damage which will arise is also unaddressed, as is differentiation – the efforts required from developing countries to grow their economies without producing emissions.

Policy officer with Trocaire, Jerry MacEvilly, said NGOs had a number of concerns, including the lack of an explicit reference to human rights in the agreement and a focus on food production instead of food security.

”The EU considers itself to be a leader on human rights and we're not seeing that,” he told independent.ie.

“The issue is whether the agreement will function to protect the most vulnerable from the impacts of climate change. There's still more to do and this is where we hope Ireland and the EU can step up.”

Friends of the Earth International said the deal as it stands would 'fail humanity'.

Professor John Sweeney from Maynooth University, who is in Paris, wrote in a blog for An Taisce that the question now arose as to what kind of a deal would be finalised.

“The clock is ticking down now and injecting more ambition into the agreement will prove difficult. The dilemma of whether a weak agreement is better than no agreement will undoubtedly dominate the next 24 hours. But as with most previous COPs, rabbits can be pulled out of the hat in the closing hours.”

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