#COP21: Historic global climate pact in sight

LE BOURGET, France (3rd UPDATE) – The world is moments away from a historic deal that could set the course for our planet's fate.

As of posting, ministers and delegates representing 195 groups are assembling inside the La Seine plenary hall at the UN climate change conference (COP21), where in the coming hours countries are set to decide on whether to agree on a deal to curb global warming to 2ºC or below.

The 31-page draft document, released at past 1:30 pm local time Saturday, December 12, will now be the focus of the plenary session, after a review of the delegations participating in the talks.

If approved, the document will be the first-ever global agreement on climate change that will have all nations on board.

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French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, prior to the release of the draft document, described it as "fair, durable, dynamic, balanced, and legally binding."

More than half of the delegations have signified their intention to adopt the draft agreement, most notably the G77+China bloc – a group of 134 nations mostly from the developing world, and includes China, India, and most of the oil-producing Gulf nations that are seen as the biggest possible stumbling blocks to a deal.

The Philippines, for its part, earlier said it will say yes to the agreement.

"We have recommended to the delegation head, Secretary Manny de Guzman, that the Philippines, in the plenary session that's happening soon, adopt or recommend the adoption of the Paris agreement in toto, or without any change in the text because it already has the full package," Philippine delegation spokesperson Tony La Viña told Rappler.

"This is a historic agreement. We've gone this far. Let's maintain it," he told the group who had gathered to analyze the clean text of the pact released by the French presidency of the UN climate summit in Paris (COP21).

'The whole world is watching'

(Front row L-R) French President Francois Hollande, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at a plenary session of the UN climate change conference in Le Bourget, France, December 12, 2015.

Photo courtesy COP21

"We are almost at the end of the path and no doubt embarking on another," Fabius said during the final Comité de Paris plenary session at the UN climate change conference (COP21) in Le Bourget, northeast of Paris.

"Today we are close to the final outcome. It is my deep conviction that we have come up with an ambitious and balanced agreement," an emotional Fabius said.

"Let us now finish the job. The whole world is watching," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the assembled negotiators prior to the document's release earlier in the day.

"We have to do what science dictates. We must protect the planet that sustains us. For that we need to have all hands on deck," he said.

French President Francois Hollande urged the negotiators to take the "decisive step" towards an agreement.

"You'll make a choice: a choice for your country, your continent, and also the world," the French president said. "This will be a major leap for mankind."

If adopted, Fabius said the document – as well as the COP21 – will be seen as a "turning point" in the history of the global battle against climate change.

"We need to show the world that our collective effort is worth more than the sum of our individual actions," he told the plenary.

"The world is holding its breath. It counts on all of us," he added.

"It is rare for an opportunity for you to change the world," Hollande added.

Praise and caution

Despite still needing to be adopted by the parties, the draft document has already received praise from civil society groups and other observers, but most of them cautioned that there is still a lot of work to be done.

Civil society groups said the deal may not be as ambitious and strong as they hoped, but they say it is a significant step in reducing the risks.

Some leading scientists also said the pact is a good start in starting the move towards a safer world, but said it is just the beginning. – With reports from Pia Ranada, Voltaire Tupaz, and Agence France-Presse / Rappler.com