Draft climate pact produced as ministers arrive for talks

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, President-designate of COP21, talks to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Christiana Figueres.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, President-designate of COP21, talks to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Christiana Figueres.PHOTO: REUTERS

France will now guide process of haggling over political elements of deal, including financing and long-term goals

Climate negotiators from nearly 200 countries wrapped up four years of tough bargaining in Paris yesterday to produce a draft deal aimed at saving the world from the crippling effects of greater weather extremes and rising sea levels.

This year is on track to be the warmest in recorded history, and the United Nations-led talks hope to craft a global agreement that phases out the use of fossil fuels. Carbon emissions from industry, transport and agriculture are heating up the planet, and unless these are curbed, nations risk more severe droughts, floods, storms and higher seas.

Negotiators were tasked in 2011 with crafting a new pact to fight climate change after the last attempt to seal one failed in Copenhagen in 2009. That four-year process ended yesterday with a 48-page draft filled with text in brackets and options. These represent the different demands of individual nations or negotiating blocs.

The text has now been handed to the French government, which will guide the negotiations over the week. Ministers arrive over the weekend and, from tomorrow, take charge of their delegations to haggle over political elements of the deal, including finance for poorer nations, and the long-term goals of the deal, such as when emissions should peak and what the peak temperature goal is.

One option in the latest text is achieving zero global greenhouse gas emissions by 2060-2080, meaning a rapid shift in the global economy to zero-carbon production via renewable energy, electric vehicles, rapid reforestation and more efficient and greener agriculture.

Yesterday, Hollywood stars such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert Redford, and business leaders, including China's Jack Ma, injected some star power to push the talks along. DiCaprio urged delegates to "be bold, be courageous, do everything in your power to change our current course", reported Agence France-Presse.

Tensions are rising at the conference as nations fight their corners. Particularly vocal are the poorest and most vulnerable nations, such as low-lying Pacific island states.

They feel the rich nations should work harder to cut emissions, and blame them for most of the extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that is trapping the sun's heat and fuelling more extreme weather. Poorer nations also want wealthier states to commit more funds to help green their economies and shield them from climate change impacts.

"It is a difficult negotiation. We've got a huge way to go. It's going to be a long and grinding process next week because there are so many moving parts," a lead negotiator for a developed nation said, requesting anonymity.

Finance has emerged as perhaps the most bruising issue. Poorer nations insist that wealthier states make good on an earlier pledged goal to provide US$100 billion (S$140 billion) in annual financing by 2020. By the end of last year, the figure was US$62 billion, a UN-sponsored study found.

While it seems likely the US$100 billion goal to 2020 will be achieved, what happens afterwards has emerged as a key concern for poorer nations. They want clarity on post-2020 funding, its sources and how it will be scaled up.

Among the ministers attending are Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli, who will deliver Singapore's national statement.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 06, 2015, with the headline 'Draft climate pact produced as ministers arrive for talks'. Print Edition | Subscribe