LE BOURGET, France (UPDATED) – Is the end in sight for the decades-long search for a global climate deal?
As the United Nations (UN) climate change conference (COP21) in France goes into overtime, negotiators scramble to put out a final draft to be adopted into a universal, legally-binding agreement to rescue the planet from imminent harm.
Officials from the UN and host nation France said a text of the final draft is ready to be presented to the 195 parties attending the conference, in what could be the most important document released in nearly two decades of climate diplomacy.
The document, to be released in the UN’s 6 official languages, will be presented to diplomats and negotiators at 11:30 am Central European time (6:30 pm Philippine time).
The negotiations, aiming to have a legally-binding, universal agreement to curb global warming to below 2ºC (3.6ºF), have finally come down to the wire, with the original Friday deadline moved to Saturday.
Throughout Friday, official plenary sessions were cancelled by the French organizers to give way to closed-door lobbying to give the negotiators more time to iron out contentious issues in the text.
Prior to this, meetings have extended into the wee hours of the night since Wednesday, December 9.
The Guardian reported that the text to be presented to the ministers Saturday was only finalized at 6:45 am local time.
After the 11:30 am plenary, delegations will again be given time to review the text, and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, acting as the president of the conference, said the group will assemble again afterwards to finally adopt – or reject – the final draft.
To underscore the importance of the plenary, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and French President Francois Hollande are set to attend the unveiling of the final draft text.
“After this last night of negotiations, the president is set to come to Le Bourget in the late morning when he may speak to the plenary session,” during which the draft accord will be presented, a source at the president’s office told Agence France-Presse.
Ban on Friday, December 11, urged negotiators at the climate change conference in France to go beyond national interests to finally seal the deal on a global climate pact.
Speaking to reporters at the supposed last day of the COP21 at the Le Bourget conference center just outside Paris, Ban acknowledged that ministers and officials trying to hammer out the climate deal are still facing a tough night of negotiations.
“I have been attending many difficult multilateral negotiations, but by any standard, by far, this negotiation… is the most important for humanity,” Ban said.
World leaders have described the Paris talks as the last chance to avert disastrous climate change: increasingly severe drought, floods and storms, as well as rising seas that engulf islands and populated coastal regions.
Heart of deal
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. – With reports from Pia Ranada and Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com