UN climate talks go long haul as US, China leaders speak

New text planned for 9am Saturday but Washington’s top envoy says discussions could run into Sunday with deep divisions between rich and emerging economies

By Ed King in Paris

The Le Bourget conference centre in Paris is primed for a frantic night of diplomacy, as 195 countries try to deliver a pact to save the world from dangerous climate change.

Laurent Fabius, president of the summit, is understood to have had a series of meetings with all major delegations today to try and resolve outstanding issues.

In a sign of the urgency felt in capitals, State Department officials say US president Barack Obama spoke to his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping about the talks today, but released few details of what was discussed.

Already running hours over schedule, a new set of proposals for governments to consider are expected mid morning on Saturday.

As it happened: UN talks run into overtime

Failure to get an agreement by Saturday night would cause “major panic” given the level of political capital invested in the process, said one former negotiator, speaking off the record.

With officials locked deep in consultations, climate campaigners rolled out a 2oo metre ‘red line’ to highlight the importance of getting an ambitious pact this weekend.

An EU official said there were still a number of difficult problems to be resolved.

Top of the list for Brussels is getting a system to ensure there is a mechanism to regularly review and submit climate plans from developed, developing and emerging economies.

A text released at 9pm Thursday “invites” countries to communicate a new set of climate plans by 2020 “and to do so every five years thereafter”.

That language is far too weak for the EU, which wants binding commitments from all governments to agree to review, submit and in time increase their climate plans. “We need to ratchet it up,” said the official.

China and India are among countries understood to oppose a new, tough submission and review system that will hold all 195 nations to account for their climate policies to the end of the century.

Liu Zhenmin, deputy head of the Chinese delegation, said any review system would have to account for the development stages of various countries.

And in a strong statement just after midday in Paris, India’s Prakash Javadekar said the onus was now on wealthier nations to meet them halfway on the role developing and emerging economies will have to play in a new deal.

“It will depend on the effort of the developed nations and not just the developing countries,” he said.

“It cannot be a one-sided second draft. India needs a system where developed countries will adopt more responsibilities and leave space for developing countries to grow.”

With millions living below the poverty line, Delhi officials say any pact must allow the country ‘carbon space’ to develop and provide citizens with basic amenities.

In a dramatic twist Brazil announced it had joined a so-called ‘high ambition coalition’ of countries including the US, EU-28, 48-strong Least Developed Countries bloc and led by the Marshall Islands.

It makes Rio the first of the ‘big 4’ emerging economies to break ranks and back a tougher climate regime under the UN.

Rhetoric or reality? Climate scientists divided on 1.5C warming goal

The diverse group wants a binding mechanism for climate plan reviews and backs the addition of a new, more ambitious long term warming threshold of 1.5C in the Paris text.

Bilateral meetings between groups and individual countries were still taking place at 8pm on the Friday night.

Few officials Climate Home spoke to believe a new text is likely to be ready in time for a 9am deadline set by the French presidency.

A provisional schedule is for a new text to go to a team of so-called ‘legal scrubbers’ at 2am, translation at 4am in time for ministers to sign off on a deal by 2pm.

But speaking to AP, US lead envoy Todd Stern intimated Saturday night into Sunday morning could be more realistic.

“I think there’s more of a sense that something is going to get done … but we’re not there yet.” he told AP.

Read more on: COP21