Countries agree on climate change accord

2015-12-12 13:52

Le Bourget - French hosts submitted to cheers and applause on Saturday a proposed 195-nation accord to curb emissions of the heat-trapping gases that threaten to wreak havoc on Earth's climate system.

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, on the brink of tears after presiding over nearly a fortnight of talks in Paris that ran into overtime, delivered the draft accord to ministers who must now decide whether or not to approve it, hopefully within hours.

"It is my conviction that we have come up with an ambitious... agreement," Fabius said, telling the ministers they would achieve a "historic turning point" for the world if they endorsed it.

The hoped-for deal seeks to end decades-long rows between rich and poor nations over how to prosecute the war on climate change.

With 2015 forecast to be the hottest year on record, world leaders and scientists have warned the accord is vital for capping rising temperatures and averting the most catastrophic consequences of a shifting climate.

French President Francois Hollande and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sat on stage alongside Fabius as he made a lengthy speech imploring ministers to approve the blueprint on Saturday.

Raising hopes of a successful conclusion, negotiators stood up and cheered before Fabius spoke, and rose in another standing ovation at the end.

The proposed agreement came after negotiators missed an initial deadline of Friday to sign an accord, as feuding ministers refused to budge on entrenched positions.

Enduring money battles

Developed and developing nations have failed for decades to sign an effective universal pact to tame global warming and shore up defences against its impacts.

They have been badly divided over how much responsibility each side must shoulder, an issue touching on interests worth trillions of dollars.

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," said the preface to an earlier version of the planned agreement.

Developing nations have insisted rich countries must shoulder the lion's share of responsibility for tackling climate change as they have emitted most of the greenhouse gases since the Industrial Revolution.

But the United States and other rich nations say emerging giants must also do more.

They argue that developing countries now account for most of today's emissions and thus will be largely responsible for future warming.

Legal obligations

Rich countries promised six years ago in Copenhagen to muster $100 billion (92 billion euros) a year by 2020 to help developing nations make the energy shift and cope with the impacts of global warming.

But how the funds will be raised remained unclear going into the Paris talks, and developing nations demanded clarity in the new accord, which would take effect from 2020.

Developing countries also demanded a commitment to increase the amount after 2020.

The United States has indicated it is willing to help mobilise the money, but has said it cannot accept proposals that the accord makes the financing obligations legally binding.

The proposed agreement was not available immediately after Fabius's speech.

But he said it would enshrine the annual $100 billion as a "floor" -- a minimum for the future.

Ahead of the talks, most nations submitted voluntary plans to curb greenhouse gas emissions from 2020, a process widely hailed as an important platform for success.

But scientists say that, even if the pledges were fully honoured, Earth would be on track for warming far above safe limits. Hopes for lowering the trajectory lie with a so-called ratchet mechanism by which future pledges will reduce emissions.

Nations most vulnerable to climate change have lobbied hard for wording in the Paris pact to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), warning otherwise rising sea levels would wipe out islands.

Big polluters, such as China, India and oil producing-giant Saudi Arabia, prefered a ceiling of 2C which would allow them to burn fossil fuels for longer.

Fabius indicated the vulnerable nations would win the battle, saying the planned agreement would enshrine a target of "well" below 2C, but also aim for 1.5C.

But after viewing earlier drafts, scientists warned other key wordings in the text did not outline strong enough plans for how much to cut greenhouse gases and when, which would allow global warming to continue on a dangerous path.

Read more on:    france  |  cop21

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.