Quest for universal climate rescue pact nears finish line

12th December 2015, Comments 0 comments

Envoys from 195 nations will aim to finally seal a Paris pact on Saturday uniting the world in the struggle to stop global warming, which threatens mankind but requires an energy revolution.

The hoped-for deal would end nearly a fortnight of gruelling UN talks hosted by France that have sought to end decades-long rows between rich and poor nations over how to fund the multi-trillion-dollar fight.

With 2015 forecast to be the hottest year on record, world leaders and scientists have warned the accord is vital to cap rising temperatures and avert the most catastrophic consequences of climate changes.

French President Francois Hollande was due to arrive at the conference venue on Saturday morning for the unveiling of a planned final version of an accord that has been drafted and re-drafted multiple times during the talks.

"Everything is in place to achieve a universal, ambitious accord," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who is presiding over the talks that turned into all-night negotiations in the final days, said on Friday.

"Never again will we have a more favourable momentum than in Paris."

The scheduled presentation of the draft at 11:30 am (1030 GMT) comes after negotiators missed an initial deadline of Friday to sign an accord, as feuding ministers refused to budge on entrenched positions.

The hoped-for final blueprint, prepared after further through-the-night negotiations, will launch a fresh and hopefully final burst of frenetic diplomacy.

Fabius has said he will give negotiators a few hours to review it before returning as a group and hopefully endorsing it.

- Enduring money battles -

Developed and developing nations have failed for decades to sign an effective universal pact to tame global warming because of divisions over how much responsibility each side should take and how much they should pay.

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

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

If climate change goes unabated, scientists warn of increasingly severe droughts, floods and storms, as well as rising seas that would engulf islands and populated coasts.

"Climate change represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet," the preface to the draft accord says.

Developing nations have 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 say emerging giants must also do more.

They argue that developing countries now account for most of today's emissions and thus will be largely responsible for future warming.

Those arguments are worth trillions of dollars in the decades to come, and have been the primary reason for the delay in Paris.

- Legal obligations -

Rich countries promised six years ago in Copenhagen to muster $100 billion (92 billion euros) a year by 2020 to help developing nations make the energy shift and cope with the impacts of global warming.

But how the funds will be raised remains unclear and developing nations have demanded clarity in the new accord, which would take effect from 2020.

Developing countries have also demanded a commitment to increase the amount after 2020.

The United States has indicated it is willing to help mobilise the money, but has said it can not accept proposals that the accord makes the financing obligations legally binding.

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 of at least 2.7C.

Nations most vulnerable to climate change have lobbied hard for wording in the Paris pact to limit warming to 1.5C.

But big polluters, such as China, India and oil producing-giant Saudi Arabia, prefer a ceiling of 2C which would allow them to burn fossil fuels for longer.

Vulnerable nations are optimistic the final draft will have a reference to 1.5C.

But they and scientists in Paris who have seen previous drafts warn other planned commitments setting out architecture for when and how much to cut greenhouse gases are so weak that global warming would continue on a dangerous path.

© 2015 AFP

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