Paris climate talks may reverse Copenhagen failure

2015-05-26 16:59
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We chat to South Africans who attended COP20

2015-01-21 15:15

We're joined in studio by Happy Khambule and Neoka Naidoo from Cape Town-based Project 90 by 203. The two were part of the civil society delegation attending COP20 in Lima, Peru last year. Watch.WATCH

Paris - A breakthrough international accord to curb global warming is within reach but major hurdles still loom including resistance to a legally binding accord, France's foreign minister said in an interview with Reuters.

Senior officials from almost 200 nations will meet from November 30 to December 11 in Paris to try to rise above the collapse of the last global climate-change conference in Copenhagen in 2009 and nail down an elusive final agreement.

They hope to build on various national plans for limits on rising world greenhouse gas emissions beyond 2020.

"All the governments stress that they want to find an accord in Paris, but the questions remain complicated and getting a consensus between 196 parties is very difficult," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in the interview.

He said agreeing to limit a rise in world temperatures to no more than 2°C over the pre-industrial average would signify success and "the starting point for a new order".

Last year was the warmest since records began in the 19th century and average world temperatures have already risen by about 0.85°C , raising the risk of heat waves, floods and rising world sea levels as polar ice melts.

Senior officials meet in Bonn, Germany, from June 1-11 to prepare for Paris. Fabius warned that to succeed, most of the obstacles, including the thorny issue of how to ensure a deal is legally binding, would have to be ironed out before December.

"If there is an accord, a lot of countries will ratify it in parliament, but there are others where politically it's more complicated such as the United States where Congress is reticent. We'll need to find a legal formula that ensures the accord is effective and ensures everybody accepts it," he said.

Copenhagen syndrome

Fabius, who with President Francois Hollande has invested much political capital into securing a positive outcome, said failure to prepare was a key lesson learned from Copenhagen.

"There is a Copenhagen syndrome," he said. "No world leaders want to (go through) that again," he said, adding that leaders would this time likely arrive at the start of the summit to avoid last-minute wrangling.

Only 38 parties including the United States, Russia and European Union as a bloc have submitted plans to the United Nations. Fabius said he expected a wave of contributions in June and before the UN General Assembly in September.

The deadline for submissions is October 1 to give time to assess how well the offers from all countries can be reconciled to rein in rising temperatures. Few believe this can be done before the Paris talks begin and that whatever is agreed will need to be followed up rigorously in the ensuing years.

Fabius, however, believes the offers will cover 90% of the world's emissions. "It will be a process that takes time, but... after that there will be improvements, precisions and harmonisations... Paris wasn't built in a day."

A fundamental difference this time around is that China, the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter, is likely to commit to a "precise and ambitious" contribution, according to Fabius.

He also said new technologies, a shift in thinking from a number of top companies that have also pledged to submit their own goals in Paris to reduce climate change, as well as investment funds adapting their portfolios to renewable energy would also help meet long-term targets.

Read more on:    unfccc  |  france  |  climate change

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