Top climate envoys confident Paris on course for success

Summary of negotiator meetings show broad strokes of global climate pact, though carbon cuts unlikely to be legally binding

Negotiators aim to strike a global climate deal in Paris next year (Pic: Flickr/James Whitesmith)

Negotiators aim to strike a global climate deal in Paris in December (Pic: Flickr/James Whitesmith)

By Ed King

Top climate envoys from the US, China, Brazil, Russia and 18 other countries have offered the clearest signal yet they feel a UN climate deal will be reached in Paris this year.

A summary of their views has been released by the Washington DC based C2ES think tank, the consequence of eight informal discussions since March 2014 with senior negotiators.

Former South Africa environment minister Valli Moosa, who helped coordinate discussions, said they had left him convinced failure in Paris would be “seizing defeat from the jaws of victory”.

Outline deal

The pact will likely make submitting national climate plans compulsory, but the greenhouse gas cuts countries propose are unlikely to be legally binding, it says.

It’s set to move on from the 1992 defined categories of rich and poor countries. All will be compelled to take action but current states of development will be respected in the agreement.

Paris is likely to stick with the goal of limiting warming to below 2C on pre-industrial levels and ensure all governments review their plans every five years, it says.

A common emissions accounting framework is also set to be developed, with allowances made for the capacity of poorer states to comply.

Named participants included US deputy envoy Trigg Talley, China envoy Gao Feng, UK head of climate negotiations Pete Betts and Saudi Arabia’s chief negotiator Khalid Abuleif.

The final report on the series of dialogues was the work of co chairs Moosa and Harold Dovland, a former lead climate negotiator for Norway.

“I’m sure each [delegate] would have something to quibble with, but they are all reasonably comfortable with it as a whole,” said Elliot Diringer, C2ES executive vice president.

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The results offer a surprisingly optimistic and harmonious view of a process historically crippled by bitter rows between rich and poor countries.

Nearly 200 countries are aiming to finalise plans this December for a pact to limit emissions that will come into force from 2020.

But two rounds of talks in Geneva and Bonn this year have made slow progress.

The UN co-chairs are charged with radically condensing an 80+ page negotiating text full of possible options by 24 July.

“The broad outlines of a deal are becoming clear,” said Dovland, “we’re encouraged because behind the scenes we see a real desire to find common ground.”

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In contrast to previous UN climate treaties, developed and developing countries are expected to contribute to the Paris deal.

So far 45 governments including China, the US and EU, the world’s top three emitters have signalled what they can deliver, although scientists say it’s well short of what is required to avert disaster.

In a media call, Moosa described the talks as frank and substantive with no serious substantive disagreements.

“We saw strong convergence on many of the key issues for Paris,” he said. “Based on these discussion I am convinced they are more serious than ever.”

The major problem still holding back talks was the provision of adequate flows of climate finance to developing countries, but he expressed confidence this would be clear by December.

“I think developed countries will come up with a formula,” he said.

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