With new climate draft, a deal creeps closer in Paris

Image: People demonstrate in front of a replica of the Eiffel Tower at the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, December 9, 2015. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

By Nina Chestney and Valerie Volcovici

PARIS (Reuters) – A week and a half of talks produced a slimmer but still-troubled version of a climate deal on Wednesday, with negotiators from 195 countries divided over how far to go in curbing global temperature rises – and how to pay for it.

“We’ve made progress but still a lot of work remains to be done,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told delegates gathered on the outskirts of Paris who are supposed to wrap up an accord by Friday.

Fabius said the new text snipped 14 pages from the previous 43-page draft and settled two-thirds of the disputes over wording. He set negotiators the task of coming up with a new draft by Thursday afternoon.

But a string of remaining disputes, at the climax of four years of negotiations, reflect fundamental disagreements about which countries should shoulder the cost of moving the world to a low-carbon energy system.

Developing countries are demanding that rich governments be obliged to scale up climate finance from the $100 billion a year already promised beginning in 2020.

Wealthier countries balk at language that would leave them legally bound to do so and are pressing for an alternative plan that would see financial resources drawn from a wider community of donor nations such as China and others that can afford it.

Differences also remain over what is known as the “ambition” of the agreement. That includes reviewing and toughening promises for action in future, probably every five years, to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

And there are sharp divisions over whether the ultimate target of the deal should hold global warming to a 2 degree Celsius rise (3.6 degree Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels, or the 1.5 Celsius (2.7 F) that more than 100 developing nations say is the only safe level to avert more storms, downpours and rising seas.

On Wednesday night, major negotiating groups grumbled about the text but accepted it as a basis for talks.

South Africa’s Environment Minister Edna Molewa, speaking on behalf of more than 130 developing nations, said it lacked legal force to oblige rich nations to provide new funds or technology.

Luxembourg’s Carole Dieschbourg, speaking for the European Union, said “many options cross our red lines” and that the text lacked obligations for all nations to step up action over time.

The new text drops past mentions of the global aviation and shipping industries, which make up about 5 percent of global emissions, and only gives indirect reference to trading mechanisms.

Separately, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States was joining what he called a “high ambition coalition” of about 90 nations. The group has met informally at recent talks, but has no joint platform of demands.

“We will not accept a minimalist or barebones agreement,” Marshall Islands Foreign Minister Tony de Brum, a member of the coalition, told a news conference with officials including from the European Union and the United States.

He said Paris should recognize the 1.5 degree limit.

Kerry raised a point of contention in a speech by urging negotiators to ensure there is a way to verify whether countries are meeting any promises they make in Paris.

Regular reviews in future are “the only way to give both the private and public sectors confidence that the promises we’re making have weight behind them,” he said.

But Kerry injected a dose of hope with an announcement of more money for countries to defend themselves against the effects of climate upheaval. He promised to double U.S. grants for climate adaption to the most vulnerable countries to $860 million a year.

(Additional reporting by David Stanway, Laurie Goering, Megan Rowling and Emmanuel Jarry; Writing by Bruce Wallace and Alister Doyle; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Copyright 2015 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.

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