Global climate accord in Paris may be hours away
LE BOURGET: Negotiators from around the world appear to be closing in on a landmark accord to slow global warming, with a possible final draft to be presented Saturday for a last round of debate at talks outside Paris.
The draft, completed after late-night negotiations, is being translated from English into the UN's five other official languages and will be presented at a special meeting of international delegates at 11:30 a.m. (1030GMT), according to two French officials.
The officials, not authorised to be publicly named in discussing the negotiations, would not elaborate on the contents of the draft. The last draft of the accord, released Thursday night, did not resolve several key issues, including how rich and developing countries would share the costs of fighting global warming.
If the 190 nations gathered in Paris agree to an accord, it would be a breakthrough. The UN has been working for more than two decades to persuade governments to work together to reduce the man-made emissions that scientists say are warming the planet.
Activists plan protests Saturday across Paris to call attention to populations threatened by melting glaciers, rising seas and expanding deserts linked to climate change.
US Secretary of State John Kerry resumed meetings Saturday morning at the Paris talks, his sixth day of diplomatic efforts to strike compromises with developing nations such as India to ensure a deal that satisfies the Obama administration's hopes for an agreement that the US can sign on to without Congressional approval.
Negotiators emerged from meetings late Friday with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, the host of the talks, amid an air of optimism that had been lacking just hours earlier.
"We are pretty much there," Egyptian Environment Minister Khaled Fahmy, the chairman of a bloc of African countries, told The Associated Press late Friday. "There have been tremendous developments in the last hours. We are very close."
Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga of the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu was upbeat.
"The signals that have come to me give me encouragement that we are going to have a very ... comprehensive and strong agreement in Paris," Sopoaga told the AP.
Liu Zhenmin, deputy chief of the Chinese delegation, was more cautious. Asked by the AP whether the draft would be the final one, he said only if "it's more or less acceptable."
Delegates from the EU, South Africa and Jordan said Saturday they had not seen the latest draft yet, but expressed hope that an agreement is possible.
In a bid to encourage agreement, French President Francois Hollande will join the special meeting Saturday and give a speech alongside UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, to show "the importance of deciding and now adopting the draft text," Hollande's office said.
The final draft is believed to have retained a long-term goal of keeping the overall global temperature rise from pre-industrial times to the end of this century "well below" 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), while pursuing efforts to limit the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Poor low-lying nations and environmental groups have pushed to keep the 1.5 degrees in the text.
"Even at 1.5 degrees, scientific consensus tells us very many of us will not be safe," Giza Gaspar Martins, the Angolan chair of the Least Developed Countries negotiating group, said in a statement Saturday.
The talks were initially scheduled to end Friday and then Fabius wanted a final draft accord by early Saturday. UN climate conferences often run over time, because of the high stakes and widely differing demands and economic concerns of countries as diverse as the United States and tiny Pacific island nations.
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 and the US never signed on.
After a final draft is presented, delegations are expected to spend a few hours studying it before it goes to a plenary meeting for eventual adoption.
China has stood firm on demands that developed countries should assume most responsibility for the costs and argued against an agreement that sets too-tough goals for weaning the world off using oil, gas and coal — the biggest source of carbon emissions.
The US and European countries want to move away from so-called "differentiation" among economies and want big emerging countries like China and India to pitch in more in a final climate deal.
China is among the more than 180 countries that have submitted emissions targets for the new pact but is resisting Western proposals for robust transparency rules that would require each country to show whether it's on track to meet its target.
Fabius said the world would not find a better moment to reach a global climate deal.
"All the conditions are met to reach a universal, ambitious agreement," he said.