Still divided, countries join final push for climate deal

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 10, 2015 7:18 AM

By Bruce Wallace and David Stanway

PARIS (Reuters) - Exhausted global climate negotiators resumed wrestling over the language of an agreement on Thursday morning after talks that dragged through the night failed to bridge gaps between rich and developing countries.

French Foreign Minister Lauren Fabius, who is chairing the U.N. conference, said he still planned to issue a penultimate draft on Thursday afternoon with as few disagreements or bracketed passages as possible to pave the way for a last round of revisions.

"We will now try to move towards a final agreement," he told U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as they met in the conference hall before talks resumed.

Fabius has insisted that an accord to curb the greenhouse gas emissions that are accelerating global warming must be finished by Friday, the meeting's official closing date, rather than overrunning in the manner of previous conferences.

But ministers and negotiators from 195 countries remain divided over fundamental issues. They include which countries would be expected to shell out the hundreds of billions of dollars required to help developing countries shift from fossil fuels to lower-carbon energy sources.

That sticking point has accentuated backroom tensions between U.S. and China over what U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has referred to as the "minimalist" approach by countries that could make a greater financial contribution.

For their part, the Chinese avoided discussing specific details but said they saw room for compromise.

1.5 DEGREES OR 2?

"There will be another draft today where more square brackets will be removed but, most importantly, we need more consultations with our colleagues," said Gao Feng, one of the Chinese negotiators. "On Friday or Saturday we may get there."

The talks have also revived differences on how ambitious the deal should be in trying to control the rise in the earth's temperatures.

A large block of developing nations are insisting that the agreement include the longer-term goal of keeping temperatures to a rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels, even though The cuts in carbon emissions that countries have pledged to make over the coming decade would not come close to that level.

Many participants remain haunted by the calamitous failure to get a deal in Copenhagen in 2009, the last time the world tried to reach a consensus on dealing with climate change.

This time, said Alex Hanafi, head of climate change strategy for the U.S.-based Environmental Defense Fund, "there really is a desire to get a deal, but the open question is whether it will be a strong deal or a weak deal”.

Jose Ramos-Horta, a former president of East Timor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate who is part of his country's negotiating team, said that no nation should expect to get all they want from an accord.

"A treaty is not a Bible. We can also review," he told Reuters, suggesting that whatever is agreed in Paris could be revised and toughened in the future.

(Reporting by Emmanuel Jarry, Lesley Wroughton, Barbara Lewis, Nina Chestney and Alister Doyle in Paris; Editing by Kevin Liffey)