World leaders ‘vow to seek two degree Celsius climate deal’ in Paris

Antalya, November 16

Leaders of the world’s top economies today vowed to seek a deal to curb climate change at an upcoming UN conference in Paris, according to a draft statement drawn up in tough, all-night talks.

Negotiators at a Group of 20 (G-20) summit in Turkey haggled into the early hours as Saudi Arabia and India initially refused to include specific goals such as limiting global warming to less than two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrialised levels, sources said.

France, backed by the European Union (EU), is working furiously to make the climate talks a success and Paris officials bristled at the reluctance of some countries to include its basic objectives in the statement.

“Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time,” said the draft communiqué obtained by AFP before it was submitted for final agreement by national leaders gathered in the Turkish Mediterranean resort of Antalya.

“We reaffirm the below two degrees Celsius climate goal,” it said, underlining a ‘determination’ to adopt a deal with legal force.

The blockbuster climate meeting will assemble 195 countries outside Paris from November 30 to December 11 in a bid to forge a post-2020 pact to roll back global warming. The two degrees Celsius goal has been enshrined in the long-running talks — held under the auspices of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) — since 2010.

France is eager to avoid the fate of Copenhagen talks in 2009 that also sought to craft a world climate rescue pact, but ended in near-fiasco amid splits between rich and emerging countries.

“At a certain point there was a feeling that we were not living on the same planet,” an exhausted European negotiator told reporters after more than 20 hours of talks with his G-20 counterparts.

Activists said the statement still offered nothing new and criticised a worrying lack of leadership just two weeks ahead of Paris.

“They have done nothing to bring 20 most powerful countries in the world closer to consensus,” said John Kirton, co-director of G-20 Research Group at University of Toronto.

Observers also deplored the apparent failure to mention financing for developing countries to make the transition to clean energy. Though not cited in the draft seen by AFP, however, this could yet feature in a final communiqué.

Developing nations are looking to rich countries to show how they intend to meet a promise made in 2009 to mobilise $100 billion (92 billion euros) per year in climate finance from 2020.

The funds will help poorer economies make the shift from cheap and abundant fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, and shore up national defences against climate change-induced superstorms, drought, floods and sea-level rise.