World leaders back drive for Paris climate deal

ANTALYA, Turkey (AFP) - Leaders of the world's top economies on Monday (Nov 16) 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 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 2 deg C 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 communique 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 2C degree 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 Nov 30 to Dec 11 in a bid to forge a post-2020 pact to roll back global warming.

The 2 C 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 G20 counterparts.

"The idea was to just state that the G20 countries will be committed to a regular process, to get to the numbers of the target, with regular steps, that was the idea. This is common sense," he said.

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 the 20 most powerful countries in the world closer to consensus," said John Kirton, co-director of the G20 Research Group at the 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 communique.

Developing nations are looking to rich countries to show how they intend to meet a promise made in 2009 to mobilise US$100 billion (S$142 billion) 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.

France insists this will be key to getting an agreement in December.

It is "difficult" to see success in Paris "without climate finance on the table," said Tristram Sainsbury, analyst at Lowy Institute in Sydney. "That is the big elephant in the room for the G20," he said.

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