UN talks race for climate-saving blueprint

06 December 2015
UN talks race for climate-saving blueprint
Demonstrators ride on a four person bike during a street parade for the COP21 in Montreuil in the East of Paris, France, 5 December 2015. Photo:Etienne Laurent/EPA

Negotiators from 195 nations raced Saturday to complete a four-year mission by delivering a blueprint to secure humanity from the consequences of rampant emissions of climate-altering greenhouse gases. 
Despite being riddled with conflicting proposals, the draft to be submitted during the day will form the skeleton of what has been described as the most complex and consequential global accord ever attempted. 
The stakes are high. Ministers from across the world will descend on Paris to try from Monday to transform the draft into a binding agreement that can rein in emissions that trap the Sun's heat, warming Earth's surface and oceans. 
Scientists warn our planet will become increasingly hostile for mankind as it warms, with rising sea levels that will consume islands and populated coastal areas, as well as catastrophic storms and severe droughts. 
- Sean Penn arrives -However, cutting emissions requires a shift away from burning coal, oil and gas for energy, as well as from the destruction of carbon-storing rainforests -- costly exercises that powerful business interests are determined to press on with. 
More than 50 personalities committed to combating climate change, from Sean Penn to US billionaire Michael Bloomberg and Chinese internet tycoon Jack Ma, will try to inject dynamism into the talks, gathering for an 'action day' on Saturday at the UN conference site in Le Bourget on the northern outskirts of Paris. 
Negotiators seem confident they can avert a repeat of a similar effort that failed spectacularly in the 2009 edition of the annual UN talks in Copenhagen, which aimed at a post-2012 deal but broke down, riven by recriminations between rich and poor nations. 
It was two years after that failure, at Durban in 2011, that nations agreed to try again for a truly universal climate-saving pact. 
"We are at the mid-point in the negotiations and clearly they are advancing, even if it is difficult," said Matthieu Orphelin, spokesman for the environmental group Fondation Nicolas Hulot. 
A new draft could be ready by about lunchtime, to be reviewed by negotiators later in the day, Orphelin said. 
Any deal emerging from Paris is likely to fall far short of what is needed to cap global warming at 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) or below.
The key, analysts say, will be agreement on review every five years to ratchet up nations' commitments. 
There is still no agreement on two fundamental issues, Orphelin said: When to begin the reviews to strengthen greenhouse gas cutting promises and when to start revising upwards the money to be mobilised for poor nations to make the costly shift to clean energy. 
- Sleep-deprived negotiators -Rich nations have been reluctant during two decades of UN negotiations to comply with demands from poorer countries that they must pay for the shift to renewable technologies, as well as to cope with climate change. 
At stake is hundreds of billions of dollars that would need to start flowing from rich to developing nations from 2020, under the planned Paris pact. 
Another battleground is how much to try to limit global warming. 
The biggest polluting nations, such as the United States and China, want to enshrine a target of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-Industrial Revolution levels. 
Weaker nations most at risk want a much tougher target of 1.5 C, which would require the global economy to transform away from fossil fuels and be fully reliant on renewables by 2050. 
The Paris conference is scheduled to conclude on December 11. 
But such deadlines are frequently ignored with weary, sleep-deprived negotiators often slogging through the night to get an accord.