Friday 2 December 2016

Paris climate talks extended as nations try to iron out differences

Published 11/12/2015 | 08:11

Laurent Fabius and Ban Ki-moon after a media conference at the UN Climate Change Conference (AP)
Laurent Fabius and Ban Ki-moon after a media conference at the UN Climate Change Conference (AP)

High-stakes climate talks in Paris have been extended for at least one more day as diplomats try to overcome disagreements over sharing the costs of fighting climate change and the shift to clean energy on a global scale.

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Negotiators from more than 190 countries are trying to do something that has never been done: reach a deal for all countries to reduce man-made carbon emissions and co-operate to adapt to rising seas and increasingly extreme weather caused by human activity.

After talks wrapped up on Friday morning, French foreign minister Laurent Fabius said he was aiming for a final draft by Saturday.

The two-week talks, the culmination of years of UN-led efforts for a long-term climate deal, had been scheduled to wrap up on Friday. UN climate conferences often run past deadline, given the complexity and sensitivity of each word in an international agreement, and the consequences for national economies.

"I will not present the text Friday evening, as I had thought, but Saturday morning," Mr Fabius said. "There is still work to do ... things are going in the right direction."

Mr Fabius said he wanted to consult various negotiating blocs so "this is really a text ... that comes from everyone".

"This represents all of the countries in the world and it's completely normal to take a bit of time, so we will shift it."

Analysts said the delay is not necessarily a bad sign.

"This needs consensus," said Michael Jacobs, an economist with the New Climate Economy project, speaking to reporters outside Paris. "There's a lot of negotiating to do."

Sam Barratt of advocacy group Avaaz said: "We would rather they take their time and were patient with the right deal than rush it and get a breakdown. Getting 200 countries to agree on anything is tough. Getting them to agree on the future of the planet and a deal on climate change is probably one of the toughest pieces of negotiation they'll ever get involved in."

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon was back at the conference, meeting Chinese foreign minister Liu Zhenmin and climate envoy Xie Zhenhua, as the negotiations enter the final stages.

Negotiators from China, the US and other nations are haggling over how to share the burden of fighting climate change. Some delegates said a new draft accord presented late on Thursday by Mr Fabius allowed rich nations to shift the responsibility to the developing world.

"We are going backwards," said Gurdial Singh Nijar of Malaysia, the head of a bloc of hardline countries that also includes India, China and Saudi Arabia.

They have put up the fiercest resistance against attempts by the US, the European Union and other wealthy nations to make emerging economies pitch in to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and help the poorest countries cope with climate change. The issue, known as "differentiation" in United Nations climate lingo, was expected to be one of the last to be resolved.

This accord is the first time all countries are expected to pitch in - the previous emissions treaty, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, only included rich countries.

The latest 27-page draft said governments would aim to peak the emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases "as soon as possible" and strive to reach "emissions neutrality" by the second half of the century.

That was weaker language than previous drafts that included more specific emissions cuts and time-frames.

The biggest challenge is to define the responsibilities of wealthy nations, which have polluted the most historically, and developing economies including China and India where emissions are growing the fastest.

Mr Ban said negotiators are still in disagreement over how far-reaching the accord should be and who should pay for damages caused by global warming.

US secretary of state John Kerry said he is "hopeful" for an agreement and has been working behind the scenes to reach compromises.

"There was a lot of progress made last night, a long night, but still a couple of very difficult issues that we're working on," he told reporters.

Hundreds of activists later stretched a block-long red banner through the climate talks to symbolise "the red lines" they do not want negotiators to cross in trying to reach an accord.

Chanting "Equity!" and "Finance!" they are arguing for more help for poor countries in reducing their emissions and dealing with future damage.

The banner ran the length of the main pedestrian thoroughfare between buildings at the climate talks, a passage that organisers dubbed the "Champs-Elysees" after the famed Parisian avenue.

The stunt was among several authorised protests inside the conference venue.

Press Association

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