World powers voice support for UN climate pact

12th December 2015, Comments 0 comments

World powers voiced support for a planned accord to defeat global warming, raising hopes the historic deal would be swiftly endorsed Saturday at 195-nation UN talks in Paris.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, on the brink of tears after presiding over nearly a fortnight of gruelling negotiations, delivered the planned pact to envoys late on Saturday morning.

"It is my conviction that we have come up with an ambitious... agreement," Fabius said, telling the ministers they would achieve a "historic turning point" for the world if they endorsed it.

The hoped-for deal, to take effect from 2020, would end decades-long rows between rich and poor nations over how to prosecute a multi-trillion-dollar campaign to curb greenhouse gases that cause Earth to warm.

The negotiators, mainly environment and foreign ministers, were due to regroup late on Saturday after reviewing the complex agreement.

But an initial standing ovation in response to Fabius's speech, followed by key endorsements from influential players -- crucially including China, India and Saudi Arabia -- raised hopes of approval.

The accord sets a target of limiting warming of the planet since the Industrial Revolution to "well below" 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), while aiming for an even more ambitious goal of 1.5C.

To do so, the emissions of greenhouse gases -- primarily caused by burning oil, coal and gas -- will need to peak "as soon as possible", followed by rapid reductions.

With 2015 forecast to be the hottest year on record, world leaders and scientists had said the accord was vital for capping rising temperatures and averting the most catastrophic impacts from climate change.

Without urgent action, scientists warn of increasingly severe droughts, floods and storms, as well as rising seas that would engulf islands and coastal areas populated by hundreds of millions of people.

French President Francois Hollande and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon sat on stage alongside Fabius as he made a speech imploring ministers to approve the blueprint on Saturday.

"You have a chance to change the world," Hollande told delegates.

"You have to take the final step, the decisive step which allows us to reach the goal."

US Secretary of State John Kerry initially added to the optimism, saying shortly after Fabius's speech the United States was pleased with the planned accord.

"It should be good, but we'll see. Little things can happen, but we think it's teed up," Kerry said.

European Commission spokesperson Anna-Kaisa Itkonen said, if approved, the deal would be a "huge success".

"The agreement covers all our main asks -- it's ambitious, it's balanced," she said.

Gurdial Singh Nijar, spokesman for a bloc that includes India, China and Saudia Arabia, also said its members were "happy with the agreement".

- Enduring money battles -

The proposed agreement came after negotiators missed an initial deadline of Friday to sign an accord, as feuding ministers refused to budge on entrenched positions.

Developed and developing nations had failed for decades to sign an effective universal pact to tame global warming and shore up defences against its impacts.

They were badly divided over how much responsibility each side must shoulder.

At the heart of the deal is cutting back or eliminating the use of coal, oil and gas for energy, which has largely powered the rise to prosperity since the Industrial Revolution began in the 1700s.

The burning of fossil fuels releases invisible "greenhouse" gases, which cause the planet to warm and change Earth's delicate climate system.

Ending the vicious circles requires a switch to cleaner sources, such as solar and wind, and improving energy efficiency.

Developing nations had insisted rich countries must shoulder the lion's share of responsibility for tackling climate change as they have emitted most of the greenhouse gases since the Industrial Revolution.

But the United States and other rich nations countered that emerging giants must also do more, arguing developing countries now account for most of current emissions and thus will be largely responsible for future warming.

- Billion-dollar deals -

The agreement says developed countries will muster at least $100 billion (92 billion euros) a year from 2020 for developing nations to help them transition to renewable energies and cope with the impacts of global warming.

However, following US objections, it was not included in the legally-binding section of the deal.

Ahead of the talks, most nations submitted voluntary plans to curb greenhouse gas emissions from 2020, a process widely hailed as an important platform for success.

But scientists say that, even if the pledges were fully honoured, Earth would be on track for warming far above safe limits.

Nations most vulnerable to climate change lobbied hard for wording in the Paris pact to limit warming to 1.5C, warning otherwise rising seas would wipe out low-lying island nations and coastal areas.

Big polluters, such as China, India and oil producing-giant Saudi Arabia, preferred a ceiling of 2C, enabling them to burn fossil fuels for longer.

Environment groups said that, if adopted, the agreement would be a turning point in history and spell the demise of the fossil fuel industry, pointing particularly to the 1.5C goal.

"That single number, and the new goal of net zero emissions by the second half of this century, will cause consternation in the boardrooms of coal companies and the palaces of oil-exporting states," Greenpeace International chief Kumi Naidoo said.


© 2015 AFP

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