France seeks new impetus for climate talks

1st June 2015, Comments 0 comments

France sought Monday to breathe life into talks for a UN climate pact, calling for a "pre-agreement" to be forged weeks before a crucial conference in Paris in December that must seal the final deal.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius urged countries not to delay consensus until the last minute -- a problem that has bedevilled more than two decades of negotiations on Earth's climate problem.

"The goal is for us to reach a pre-agreement as early as October," said Fabius, who will steer the November 30-December 11 Conference of Parties in France.

This would allow the Paris meeting (COP 21) "to add the finishing touches and focus on the contentious points, working from the basis of a text that is clearly understood by everyone".

Seeking to add urgency, Fabius said he would host two rounds of ministerial meetings in Paris, on July 20-21 and on September 7. He did not say who would attend or which issues would be covered.

"These consultations should allow us (politicians) to make progress on the more delicate questions to facilitate your work," he told negotiators at the start of an 11-day wrangle under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

France is mulling whether to invite heads of state to the opening of the Paris COP to inject political impetus into the process.

But ultimately it will be up to ministers to give final approval to the text negotiated by officials from 195 UNFCCC member nations.

The Bonn talks will focus on trimming a sprawling draft text. It is currently an 80-page compendium of national viewpoints, many of which overlap while others directly oppose one another.

The end goal is a post-2020 deal to save Earth's climate from potentially catastrophic damage from heat-trapping fossil-fuel emissions.

UNFCCC members have a target of limiting warming to no more than two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels.

The pact would commit the world community to rolling back emissions and muster financial help for poor countries threatened by worsening drought, flood and rising seas.

But the process is scarred by memories of the last time the UN tried to forge an ambitious climate deal -- the 2009 summit in Copenhagen that ended in deadlock.

- 'Totally unsuited' -

In comments published in the daily Le Monde on Monday, French Ecology Minister Segolene Royal blasted the format of the talks -- the result of a labyrinthine, consensus-driven approach -- saying it could not match the urgency of the climate crisis.

"The UN negotiations are totally unsuited to the climate emergency. Everyone says so in private, everyone is totally aware of it, but the sheer weight of the process is such that it just carries on as usual," said Royal.

"I get the impression that every time, the decisions that have to be taken are postponed until next year."

Nations today remain deeply divided on several issues, including whether to set intermediate goals in emissions reductions and stage regular meetings to press countries to deepen their efforts.

Developing economies are also looking at rich countries to explain how they will implement their promise of mustering $100 billion (92 billion euros) a year in climate finance by 2020.

On current emissions trends, say scientists, the planet could be on track for 4.8 C of warming this century alone.

So far 38 UN parties have made pledges to a roster of emissions curbs at the heart of the Paris pact.

They include the United States, the European Union, Russia and Canada, but not yet Japan, Australia, Brazil, India or China, the world's number one emitter.

© 2015 AFP

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