France releases draft of climate change pact to save world from weather extremes, rising seas

An image created by visual artist Nickolay Lamm shows the effect of a plus 4 deg C rise in temperature on London.
An image created by visual artist Nickolay Lamm shows the effect of a plus 4 deg C rise in temperature on London.PHOTO: CLIMATE CENTRAL

PARIS - The French government on Wednesday (Dec 9) released a streamlined draft text of a pact to save the world from devastating weather extremes and rising seas caused by climate change.

As the United Nations-led talks race towards a deadline later this week, tensions are growing as negotiators press their demands. The present draft, consolidated by the French, still leaves the most contentious issues unresolved including on financing, review of national climate action plans and the temperature goal.

The Paris talks involve delegates from nearly 200 nations who are negotiating a global deal to fight climate change. The meeting, one of the biggest environmental conferences in history, has drawn the backing of world leaders, mayors, hundreds of businesses and investors and Hollywood celebrities to get a deal done before it's too late to stop the world from overheating.

To do that, carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels must decline quickly by switching to wind, solar and other renewables, investing in green buildings, using energy more wisely and reducing deforestation. During the talks, countries, companies and mayors made numerous pledges to invest in cleaner energy and to cut emissions from cities, bolstering the efforts of negotiators.

"It's still too early to say that it (text) will be accepted. There is still some way to go," Singapore's Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Mr Masagos Zulkifli, said during a doorstop.

 

He stressed that a core part of the agreement must be that all nations carry out their climate action plans, called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), which were submitted before the meeting started on Nov 30. Nearly 190 nations have submitted plans.

 

"INDCs will only make a meaningful impact when everybody commits, everyone will carry them out, and makes sure they are measurable and reportable and that everybody agrees that in five years' time we have moved forward," he said, referring to a timetable to review the pledges, a key issue for the Paris agreement.

The 29-page text reflects the input of 14 co-facilitators appointed by the French hosts, including Singapore Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan, who are trying to bridge divides on the most contentious issues.

The draft has removed a lot of the bracketed text and options in previous versions but not for the most contentious issues, which are only likely to be resolved in the final hours on Friday or over the weekend if the talks drag on.

Difficult areas including setting an agreed cap on global temperature rise, whether it should be below 2 deg C above pre-industrial levels, well below 2 deg C or below 1.5 deg C. The most vulnerable Pacific island states want below 1.5 deg C as they risk being washed away by higher seas.

This year, the global average temperature rise has reached 1 deg C, the UN weather agency said last month.

Language around climate finance for poorer nations has been streamlined but key parts are still in brackets. The text says climate cash "[SHALL][SHOULD] be scaled up in a predictable and transparent manner [beyond previous efforts] [from US$100 billion (S$140.5 billion) per year] from 2020".

Developing nations want industrialised states to commit to a floor of US$100 billion a year from 2020 to help them green their economies and adapt to climate change impacts. And they want clarity on where the funds will come from and a pledge that the money will be progressively scaled-up.

The text also leaves open the timing of regular reviews of INDCs, with growing support for every five years. But there are differences over the level of transparency of the review, with poorer countries wary of having their individual action plans open to scrutiny.

"All the elements for a strong and equitable agreement are still in the latest, shorter draft," said Ms Jennifer Morgan, global director of climate programme at the Washington-based World Resources Institute.

"There is clearly an immense amount of work to be done here in Paris, but things are starting to come together," she said in a statement.

In a boost to the talks on Wednesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States would double public, grant-based adaptation investments by the year 2020 from just over US$400 million last year.

"We have the rarest of opportunities to actually change the world, to improve the lives of millions of people. And in the next few hours, we need to work as never before not to let this opportunity slip by," Mr Kerry told the Paris conference.

dfogarty@sph.com

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