NGO representatives and participants stage a sit-in protest closed to the plenary session to denounce the first climate deal draft during the COP21, United Nations Climate Change Conference in Le Bourget, north of Paris, France, Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015.Image: Francois Mori/Associated Press
However, the emergence of a broad new coalition of more than 100 nations calling for a highly ambitious agreement makes the odds of striking a deal that would help reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, within reach.
The negotiators are settling into a sprawling makeshift conference center on the grounds of Le Bourget Airport, just outside Paris, for what promises to be at least a 48-hour marathon toward a new global climate agreement.
As of Wednesday evening, local time, countries still disagreed on a variety of issues, from temperature targets to the need for a review of emissions targets prior to the year 2020. On some of these matters, it appeared that little if any progress had been made in the more than a week and a half of talks so far.
“At least now things are now clearly on the table,” Fabius said of the new draft. “We have made progress but still a lot of work remains to be done.”
The draft text, and the discussion that followed in an open meeting between representatives of nearly every country in the world, is simultaneously more ambitious than expected and sorely lacking in details that would give it any chance of succeeding.
For example, governments are poised to adopt a goal of limiting global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius, possibly as low as 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, above preindustrial levels, a target that has been advanced by a block of small island states and then joined by the U.S., E.U. and other industrialized nations. Prior to these talks, the U.S. had not endorsed the 1.5-degree goal.
Below is the draft released on Wednesday, for an annotated version of where many of the disagreements lie, see Mashable's Document Cloud version.
The world has already warmed by about 1-degree Celsius based on the anticipated global average surface temperature for 2015 (this year will be the hottest on record), and given greenhouse gas emissions-to-date, a 1.5-degree target would be impossible to achieve unless governments radically scale back their emissions of greenhouse gases.
Greenhouse gas emissions cause discord
The difference between the level of ambition seen in countries' greenhouse gas emissions reduction pledges — which together allow for an overall increase in emissions through 2030 — and what would be needed to meet a 1.5-degree target is more like a chasm than a gap.
The slogan, “1.5 to stay alive,” has gathered momentum the past two weeks to the point where it has now been endorsed by more than 100 countries.
Barbados Environment Minister Denis Lowe said a target of 2 degrees Celsius, which is an option in the draft text, is "not acceptable."
"We won’t sign off on any agreement that represents a certain extinction of our people,” he said, referring to the threat sea level rise poses to low-lying island countries.
Members of the new, more than 100-nation strong "High Ambition Coalition" are pushing for the most stringent agreement possible. This alliance, which is an odd bedfellows combination of some of the world's smallest and least developed countries with wealthy nations like the U.S. and E.U., represent a major threat to the negotiating clout of the Group of 77 developing nations plus China, known as the G77.
At a press conference, coalition members expressed concern that the draft agreement was unclear regarding the need for a new round of emissions pledges prior to 2020, at least for industrialized nations that historically contributed the most to causing recent global warming.
Alliances vow to stand strong
I will support the goals of this coalition in the nights and the days to come," said Barbara Hendricks, the German environment minister, at a press conference at the negotiating venue on the outskirts of Paris on Wednesday.
“I think this group and others need to stand strong," said Todd Stern, the U.S. special envoy for climate change.
“There are some countries here who are not in the coalition and, indeed, who seek a more minimal outcome,” Stern said. “But we need to press forward for ambition.”
Notably, the world's leading greenhouse gas polluter, China, is not in the new alliance, nor is India, whose environment minister has expressed concern about a 1.5-degree temperature target because it could mean greater restrictions on the growth of Indian emissions in coming decades.
Other alliances also vowed to stand strong, including the G77 plus China, which includes the world's developing countries. Their representatives expressed disapproval with numerous provisions of the text, including what they see as watered down "differentiation" language establishing requirements for industrialized and developing countries.
India’s environment minister, Prakash Javadekar, said the draft text does not sufficiently distinguish between historical emitters of greenhouse gases and countries that are mainly victims of these emissions, while representing the major emitters of tomorrow.
“We are not suggesting that we remain stuck in the past,” Javadekar said. “But a durable agreement cannot be crafted diluting historical responsibilities, or by putting the polluters and victims at the same level. How can we do this?"
Who will pay for climate aid?
Other major areas of remaining disagreement concern climate financing, such as how much climate aid will be provided to developing nations, and whether developing countries will be required or encouraged to also provide aid as well.
The longterm goal is also unclear, with options in the draft text ranging from a 40% to 70% reduction in emissions below 2010 levels by the year 2050 to as large as 95% emissions cuts by midcentury.
Also, agreement is lacking on provisions regarding a way to provide compensation for climate change-related losses, known in the negotiations as "loss and damage." As of Wednesday evening, the entire loss and damage section was in brackets, meaning it was subject to considerable disagreement.
Fabius is prodding negotiators to come to agreement on a near-final draft on Thursday, in order for a final agreement to be adopted on Friday.