Global climate talks stumble near finish line

Paris, December 11

Efforts to craft a global accord to combat climate change stumbled today with China and many other nations refusing to yield ground, forcing host France to extend the UN summit by a day to overcome stubborn divisions.

After a night of often fraught discussions on issues including a proposed goal to phase out net greenhouse gas emissions in the second half of the century, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius conceded the two-week summit would not end today as planned.

He said a final text, meant to chart a way to far wider use of greener energy such as wind and solar power, would now be presented to nearly 200 nations for review only on Saturday, a day later than planned.

“We are nearly there. I’m optimistic,” Fabius told reporters in the early afternoon, flanked by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “I’ll present a text tomorrow at 0900 (0800 GMT) to the parties that I’m sure will be adopted.”

Ban called a 27-page draft text already on the table “a good basis” for a deal to help avert more powerful storms, droughts, and desertification and rising sea levels. “I appeal to all parties to take a final decision for humanity.”

Delegates said China was resisting calls, led by the US and the EU, for all nations to review and update their national plans for curbing greenhouse gas emissions every five years.

President Xi Jinping has already promised that carbon dioxide emissions from China’s rapidly developing economy will start falling from around 2030, and does not want to revisit the target. Delegates said China had also reasserted demands that developed nations do far more to curb greenhouse gas emissions, mostly the result of burning coal, gas and oil.

Gao Feng, the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s special representative on climate change, played down differences between China and the United States, saying, “There are no special differences ... A deal is getting closer.”

“In fact, we have been pushing all kinds of countries, whether it is the EU or others. We wish they can all be more ambitious,” he said.

Many other countries were also holding their ground. Saudi Arabia said it would resist language in the draft calling for a rise in global temperatures to be limited to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels - a plan that it fears could jeopardise oil production.