Global Deal Goes Down to the Wire as Climate Hawks Dissect Draft Text
Negotiators were at work until dawn Thursday morning at the United Nations climate summit, after French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius released a Wednesday afternoon draft of the Paris agreement that drew a flood of reaction from civil society observers onsite.
With the next revision of the deal expected Thursday, on the suggestion of the French Presidency of the COP, countries agreed “that the next round of talks would be conducted in the format that was first introduced in Durban in 2011 called Indaba,” reports Business Standard, India’s self-described leading business daily. “It requires all ministers to come together in a round table format with only a few of their top negotiators assisting them in finding compromises.”
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National representatives and subject specialists associated with the worldwide Climate Action Network pointed to progress on a workable deal. Yet it was clear that fundamentally important points related to fossil fuel subsidies, international marine and airline emissions, human rights, Indigenous rights, and job transition for fossil fuel workers had been dropped or severely diluted in the latest version of the text.
And Business Standard picked up one of the major sticking points still on the table in the marathon climate talks: “With developed countries refusing either an enhancement of the pre-2020 emission reduction targets, or a roadmap for delivering finance or a technological mechanism that would reduce costs of buying out intellectual property rights over clean technology, India’s options on table remain limited to operationalizing the firewall between their obligations and those of those with historical responsibility for accumulating greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.“
Meanwhile, the drive to set 1.5°C as the long-term limit for average global warming continued to pick up momentum, with an estimated 120 countries signing on to the aspirational goal and even oil-soaked Venezuela jumping onboard. It wasn’t at all clear, though, whether countries had any idea how to implement such an ambitious target, and there were suspicions that some delegations had endorsed 1.5° as a positioning statement that would give them cover to behave badly on other aspects of the global accord.
In their reactions to the new draft of the agreement, climate hawks pointed to grounds for optimism, but underscored the urgent need to strengthen key provisions in the 24 to 48 hours before it was due to be finalized.
“We’re asking for a clear signal out of Paris, but some parties are still muddying the waters with weak text,” said May Boeve of 350.org. “If countries are serious about keeping warming below 1.5°C, we need to see a firm commitment to get off fossil fuels and move to 100% renewable energy by 2050, and an ambition mechanism to help us get there. Politicians need to start living up to the title of ‘leader’ in the next 48 hours.”
“The next 24 hours are critical,” agreed Mohamed Adow of Christian Aid. “This is where the real negotiations will begin. We really need countries to fight to keep in the high ambition options on climate finance, the long term decarbonization goal, and a ratchet mechanism” ensuring that countries continually toughen their carbon reduction targets.
Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists warned that “the agreements on the core political issues—the long-term goal, review and revision of INDCs, transparency, loss and damage, and finance—have yet to be resolved.” Over the next day or two, that will mean that “ministers need to rise above their differences to create a final agreement that rapidly transitions the world to a clean energy economy and allows us to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”
Kaisa Kosonen of Greenpeace called the latest draft “a mix of the good, the bad, and the ugly,” charging that “some of the words in this text are smeared with the fingerprints of the oil-producing states.” She added that “it’s good that a temperature goal of 1.5°C is still there. It’s bad that countries’ emissions targets are so weak, and there’s very little in the text that makes them come back soon with something better.”
Alex Doukas of Oil Change International warned of “an attack on a small but important paragraph” in the text that would have curtailed fossil fuel subsidies.
“Before the text was taken behind closed doors yesterday, this section aimed to ensure international public finance was not used to fuel the very problem this entire agreement is trying to solve,” he said. In the latest draft “it’s clear this paragraph took a beating from countries pandering to the interests of big oil, coal, and gas.
“While a glimpse of the original purpose is still there, countries that are serious about making sure international public money goes to solving the problem, and not fueling it, will have to push back.”
Concluded ECO, CAN’s daily newsletter and negotiator communiqué: “We need to lift the veil of romantic mystery surrounding the draft Paris Agreement and the package of decisions. On this morning after, ministers have to look each other in the eye over breakfast, in the bright light of day, and remember they are now in this relationship for the long haul. The text presented on Wednesday afternoon by French Foreign Minister Fabius, based on the work of the ADP and after four days of consultations among governments at the total exclusion of civil society, resembles a weak pre-nuptial prepared by lawyers, not a strong declaration of love. It starkly lays out important choices that need to be made today!”