Saturday, 12 December 2015

Final Draft of Climate Change Accord Is Released

Delegates on Saturday were presented with the final draft of a landmark climate accord that would for the first time commit nearly every country to lowering planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions as a way to help stave off the most drastic effects of climate change.

The document was made available midafternoon, after several delays as negotiators wrangled behind the scenes to nail down final details.

Earlier on Saturday, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius of France made a formal announcement about the document, which was originally scheduled to be presented on Friday, after two weeks of intense negotiations at this United Nations summit meeting.

Along with President François Hollande of France and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations, Mr. Fabius, who has presided over the assembly, made an emotional appeal to delegates to approve the accord.

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“Our text is the best possible balance — a balance which is powerful yet delicate, which will enable each delegation, each group of countries, with his head held high, having achieved something important,” Mr. Fabius said.
Unlike the climate summit meeting in Copenhagen in 2009, he said, the stars for this assembly were aligned.

As top negotiators from countries representing what they call a “high ambition coalition” walked into the United Nations plenary session shortly before noon Paris time, they were swarmed by cheering, clapping bystanders. The group includes a mix of rich countries, such as the United States and members of the European Union; island nations like Tuvalu and Kiribati, which are vulnerable to damage as a result of rising sea levels; and countries with the strongest economies in Latin America, such as Brazil, which have joined to push for ambitious environmental provisions in the deal.

Members of the group all wore lapel pins made of dried coconut fronds, a symbol of the Marshall Islands, whose climate envoy, Tony de Brum, helped form the coalition. Major polluting developing economies, such as China and India, are not in the coalition.
Scientists and world leaders have said the talks here represent the world’s last, best hope of striking a deal that would begin to avert the most devastating impacts of a warming planet.

Mr. Ban has said that there is “no Plan B” if this deal falls apart. Friday night, the Eiffel Tower was illuminated with that phrase.

Mr. Fabius hopes to gavel the document into international law before a plenary session of 195 parties and the European Union scheduled for later on Saturday.
But it is not yet certain that the draft accord will receive the unanimous support required for it to become legally binding.

At the conference in Copenhagen in 2009, a hard-fought deal failed at the last moment when just a handful of parties objected to the text.

“Anything could happen,” said Jennifer Morgan, an expert in international climate change negotiations with the World Resources Institute, a research organization. “I’ll be holding my breath until the gavel comes down.”
A more likely course of events, Ms. Morgan and others said, is that diplomats from several countries will object to some portions of the language in the agreement, and they will spend the coming hours in sideline talks, while Mr. Fabius and his envoys negotiate to win their support. Those talks may yet lead to a few final tweaks to the language of the text

“It is still a proposal,” a senior official closely involved in the process said in an email on Saturday morning. “Fingers crossed.”

But as details of the plan emerged, some developing nations expressed consternation. Poorer countries had pushed for a legally binding provision requiring that rich countries appropriate a minimum of $100 billion a year to help them mitigate and adapt to the ravages of climate change. In the final deal, that $100 billion figure only appears in a preamble, not in what would be the legally binding portion of the agreement.
“We’ve always said that it was important that the $100 billion was anchored in the agreement,” said Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu, a negotiator for the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the incoming leader of a coalition known as the Least Developed Countries. “We’ll have to huddle and see if something can be worked out.”

At the heart of the new draft text is a historic breakthrough on an issue that has foiled decades of international efforts to address climate change. Traditionally, such pacts have required action by developed economies, such as the United States, to take action to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, but they have exempted developing countries , such as China and India, from such action.

The new accord changes that dynamic by requiring action in some form from every country, rich or poor. However, the echoes of those divides persisted during the negotiations.
After two years of international talks in dozens of world capitals, two weeks of focused negotiations in this temporary tent city in a suburb of Paris, and two all-night, line-by-line negotiations, a near-final text was sent to lawyers and translators at about 4 a.m.

While top energy, environment and foreign policy officials from nearly every country have offered their positions on the text, ultimately it fell to the summit meeting’s French host, Mr. Fabius and members of his staff, to assemble the final document.

nj 13 hours ago
What's required to stave off the worst consequences of a warming planet is a long-term view/ commitment, a pact that binds countries beyond...
Un 13 hours ago
The naïveté on the part of the Times is astonishing. One wonders if they read their own paper. China shut down schools in Beijing this week...
Independent 13 hours ago
I took a brief scan of the document. I'll be interested in the "expert" analysis but it appears to be pretty toothless to me. Lots of...

The stated goal of the agreement is to begin to level off the rise in fossil fuel emissions enough to stave off an increase in atmospheric temperatures of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). That is the point at which, scientists say, the planet will be locked into an inescapable future of devastating effects of global warming, including rising sea levels, severe flooding and droughts, food and water shortages and more extreme storms.
More recent scientific reports have concluded that even staving off that amount of warming will not save the planet from many of the worst effects of climate change, particularly rises in sea levels. Thus, the text is also expected to include a reference to reducing emissions enough to stave off a warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).

Vulnerable low-lying island states have pushed for the inclusion of that more stringent target, against the objection of major oil producers like Saudi Arabia. However, that tighter target is only considered aspirational, and it is not subject to legally binding language.

At the core of the agreement are a set of individual plans, put forth by 186 countries, outlining ways in which they will lower their domestic greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 or 2030.
On their own, those plans will only lower greenhouse gas emissions by about half as much as is necessary to stave off even the 3.6 degree temperature rise.

Thus, the new accord sets out a schedule for those countries to regularly return to the table with fresh plans that would ratchet up the stringency of their existing polices. It also sets up a schedule for countries to convene at regular “stock-taking” meetings, at which they will be required to present an accounting of how they are reducing their emissions compared to the plans that they have put forth.

The accord also sets forth language requiring countries to monitor, verify and publicly report their levels of emissions.

In terms of its legal force, some elements of the accord will be voluntary, while some elements will be legally binding under international law. That hybrid structure was specifically designed to ensure the support of the United States: An accord that would have required legally binding targets for emissions reductions would be legally interpreted as a new treaty, and thus would be required to go before the Senate for ratification.

But that proposal would be dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled Senate, where many members question the established science of climate change, and nearly all hope to thwart President Obama’s climate change agenda.

Thus, all language in the accord relating to the cutting of carbon emissions is essentially voluntary. The language assigns no concrete targets to any country for emissions reductions. Instead, each government has crafted a plan detailing how they would lower emissions at home, based on what each head of state believes is feasible given the country’s domestic political and economic situation.

The accord uses the language of an existing treaty, the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, to put forth legally binding language requiring countries to verify their emissions, and to periodically put forth new, tougher domestic plans over time.

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