Paris Agreement: Promise of a Fair Deal for All Countries

France presented negotiators from 190 nations with what it called a “final draft” of an unprecedented climate deal.

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France presented negotiators from 190 nations with what it called a “final draft” of an unprecedented climate deal to slow global warming and urged them to approve it on Saturday. Called the ‘Paris agreement’, the deal would limit rising temperatures and sea levels and, eventually, hold man-made emissions to the levels that nature can absorb.

If the pact is approved, nations would be committed to keeping the rise in global temperatures by the year 2100 compared with pre-industrial times “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) and “endeavor to limit” them even more, to 1.5 degrees Celsius. That was a key demand of poor countries ravaged by the effects of climate change and rising sea levels.


France presented negotiators from 190 nations with what it called a “final draft” of an unprecedented climate deal.
French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius (C) President-designate of COP21, with French President Francois Hollande (L) and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (R), at the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) on December 12, 2015. (Photo: AP)

What’s In:

  • An aim of keeping temperatures below 1.5C, a much tougher ambition than the 2C that nearly 200 governments agreed for the first time six years ago.
  • A 5-year ‘stocktake’ of how countries are doing on their climate plans, with the first happening in 2023.
  • ‘Loss and damage’, a mechanism for addressing the financial losses vulnerable countries face from climate impacts such as extreme weather. The language is such that the US should be happy: It “does not involve or provide a basis for any liability or compensation.”
  • A request for countries to revisit their national climate plans in 2018, before they come into effect post-2020.

What’s Out:

  • A clear timescale of when fossil fuels must be phased out in the second half of the century. The previous draft said parties would work “towards reaching greenhouse gas emissions neutrality in the second half of the century”. This one doesn’t. Nothing is in square brackets – denoting disagreement – in the text.

Negotiators have a few hours to analyse the draft before going into a plenary meeting for possible adoption. French President Francois Hollande, who joined the meeting Saturday to add weight to the negotiations, urged them to adopt it.

“The decisive agreement for the planet is here and now,” Hollande said. “France calls upon you to adopt the first universal agreement on climate.”

The new version removes disputed concepts like “climate neutrality” or “emissions neutrality” which had appeared in earlier drafts but met with opposition from countries including China. It sets a goal of getting global greenhouse gas emissions to start falling “as soon as possible”; they have been generally rising since the industrial revolution.

France presented negotiators from 190 nations with what it called a “final draft” of an unprecedented climate deal.
US Secretary of State John Kerry, on his birthday with India’s Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar (R) on December 11, 2015 in Paris. (Photo: AP)

It says wealthy nations should continue to provide financial support for poor nations to cope with climate change but doesn’t say how much. It also includes a section on “loss and damage,” an issue pushed by small island nations and other vulnerable countries who want help to recover from climate change disasters and rising sea levels.

But the draft appears also to meet a key demand by the Obama administration that it not include language that would need approval from the Republican-led US Congress requiring rich countries to pay poor countries hurt by climate change. The document specifies that it “does not involve or provide any basis for any liability or compensation” for countries that are damaged by climate change.

Could Be a Breakthrough

If the 190 nations gathered in Paris agree to the accord, it would be a breakthrough. The UN has been working for more than two decades to persuade governments to work together to reduce the man-made emissions that scientists say are warming the planet.

This accord is the first time all countries are expected to pitch in. The previous emissions treaty, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, included only rich countries and the US never signed on. The last climate summit, in Copenhagen in 2009, ended in failure when countries couldn’t agree on a binding emissions pact.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged delegates to adopt the draft.

“We must protect the planet that sustains us,” Ban told the negotiators. “We need all our hands on deck.”


Differing Stances

The talks were initially scheduled to end Friday. UN climate conferences often run over time, because of the high stakes and widely differing demands and economic concerns of countries as diverse as the United States and tiny Pacific island nations.

More than 180 countries presented plans to cut or curb greenhouse gas emissions in the run-up to the conference. That was a major breakthrough for the climate talks, showing almost all countries were ready to be part of the new deal after years of stalemate.

But disputes arose in Paris over how to anchor those targets in a binding international pact, with China and other major developing countries insisting on different rules for rich and poor nations. The US resisted legally binding emissions targets, instead pressing for robust transparency rules to make sure countries live up to their commitments. China pushed back, saying Western proposals were too “intrusive.”

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