As it happened: 195 countries agree Paris climate deal

Agreement aims to hold global warming to ‘well below 2C’ and help the world’s poor cope with climate change impacts

(credit: IISD/Kiara Worth)

Posters demanding strong climate action on a mock Eiffel tower at Le Bourget conference centre (credit: IISD/Kiara Worth)

Updates from Alex PashleyMegan Darby and Ed King in Paris – all times CET


2230 – I’m going to wrap up now. We have seen 195 countries agree to change the course of the global economy and adapt to the worst impacts of climate change. It’s the pact that has eluded negotiators for decades.

It is not a perfect deal. In the coming days, there will be sober analysis of its shortcomings. The pathway to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is less clear than many would like. The support available to the world’s poor is less than many would like.

But it remains a more ambitious deal than many expected two weeks ago. The decision to push for a warming limit of 1.5C offered a ray of hope to vulnerable communities.

Tonight, negotiators are celebrating a truly historic work of international diplomacy. As President Francois Hollande put it: “This is a revolutionary act… you have just proclaimed the strength of humanity.”

2203 – Tony de Brum is visibly emotional. The Marshall Islands foreign minister has been a tireless advocate for stronger ambition in this process, to save his islands from the rising seas. At 70, he has been voted out of parliament and steps down next month. This is his swansong – and what a way to go.

He says: “Emissions targets are still way off track, but this agreement has the tools to ramp up ambition, and brings a spirit of hope that we can rise to this challenge. I can go back home to my people and say we now have a pathway to survival.”

Fittingly, he hands over to an 18-year-old Marshallese girl, who speaks eloquently about her fear of the changing waters. “This agreement should be the turning point of our story,” she says.

2155 – In a surprise vote of confidence for the process, Venezuela’s Claudia Salerno announced the country would submit a climate plan to the UN. Here it is.

That leaves Nicaragua isolated as an unapologetic refusenik. Only 8 out of 195 countries have not joined in, including war-torn Syria and rogue state North Korea.

2146 – The speeches are still going on. There are ranks of TV cameras outside the plenary hall. I caught EU commissioner Miguel Arias Canete.

Asked if he was worried by the last-minute huddles, Canete said: “I have been worried during the past year when the text was long. I was worried when the first week in Paris no progress was made. I was worried the first day of this week… from Thursday, Friday, things started moving and I am extremely happy with it [the deal].”

2012 – Morocco goes next, trailing next year’s conference in Marrakech, to put the Paris agreement into practice.

I’m going off to grab some ministers. More reaction to come.

2007 – The EU is also upbeat. Both Carol Dieschbourg and Miguel Arias Canete speak to much applause.

“Today we celebrate. Tomorrow we have to act,” says Canete.

2000 – Switzerland welcomes the deal on the behalf of the “environmental integrity group”, a small but influential grouping with Mexico and South Korea: “We are convinced the agreement we have adopted will change the world for better.”

1950 – Australia’s Julie Bishop takes up a similar theme, reminding everyone they must come back for reviews every five years – the show goes on.

Nicaragua’s Paul Oquist takes the floor to say essentially he would have rejected the deal if given the chance. “We are surprised that presidency did not recognise Nicaragua and some others … before adopting the document.” The country defied the UN in not submitting a climate pledge towards this deal, which he told Climate Home was “a path to failure”.

1938 – Now national delegates have a chance to speak. South Africa’s Edna Molewa goes first, emphasising the importance of financial support to developing countries.

Cites Nelson Mandela: “After climbing a great hill, one only finds there are many more mountains to climb.”

1930 – Fabius’ hand is shaking slightly as he brandishes a COP21-branded gavel for the cameras. “It is a small gavel, but it can do an important job,” he says.

1926 – Laurent Fabius is speaking very fast now, appearing somewhat flustered. But the gavel comes down, meaning the agreement is adopted. Everyone leaps to their feet, cheering.

1923 – Another official lists technical errors to be corrected, blaming sleep deprivation. The controversial Article 4.4 “shall” is replaced by “should”. Phew, that’s that sorted.

1919 – Well, the show seems to be back on. Laurent Fabius says there were some corrections to make, but doesn’t go into details.

He gives the floor to one of the co-chairs, a Colombian representative, who explains the technicalities of translating the documents.

1911 – Why all this fuss over one word? Well, “shall” is binding under international law. “Should” is not.

The US has maintained all along that it will not accept legally binding mitigation targets. That is because it would have to get Congress to ratify such a deal. Congress is dominated by Republicans hostile to the whole climate agenda.

Now, the US is arguing “shall” was never supposed to be in there – it’s a typo. That appears to be backed up by Thursday’s draft, which only used “should”.

But now it is out there, some are framing it as the US trying to weaken its commitments, which in a sense is also true.

1851 – The word “shall” appears 143 times in the COP text, notes Leo Hickman, editor of the excellent Carbon Brief blog.

1845 – Laurent Fabius, Christiana Figueres and other key officials are huddling on the stage. It’s unclear why there is a delay or if it is significant.

Veteran South African negotiator Alf Wills says there may yet be a twist… “it’s been an effective adoption of a deal by the media,” he says with a grin.

If the US, Africa and others kick off, others will join in. Still, he says if agreed, this will be more ambitious than envisaged at the 2011 Durban summit, when a process to secure a global deal was born. “It’s a system shifter,” he says.

1841 – It seems the delay might not just be for the benefit of friends catching up on gossip.

Huddles are starting to appear on the negotiating floor. US objections to Article 4.4 seem to be holding up talks. The paragraph states that developed countries “shall” make economy-wide emissions cuts. The US wants to change it to the legally weaker “should”.

“This is not looking good,” one small island state delegate just said. Venezuela and China are talking in one huddle, Nicaragua and China in another. John Kerry and Xie Zhenhua were locked in what appeared to be a good-natured discussion until 5 minutes ago.

1830 – One person not caught up in the congratulatory mood is Yeb Sano, Filipino negotiator-turned-activist. He embarked on a round-the-world pilgrimage ahead of the summit and has arrived home for his son’s 12th birthday.

1814 – It’s a heady atmosphere in Le Bourget, with sporadic bursts of cheering. They’re in no hurry to start, with everyone chatting and joking. At this stage, it is almost inconceivable the deal won’t be approved.

Some tweeters are taking a moment to share the love with activists and campaigners, whose role does not end in Paris.

1757 – Economist Lord Stern joins Al Gore among the non-government delegates on the front row here to see history being made. Laurent Fabius walked in to rapturous applause. The EU element of the so-called “coalition of high ambition” also marched in but to significantly less cheering.

Many of the delegates already have watery eyes. This has been a lifetime’s work for hundreds of envoys – and so often with little reward. Today that may change.

1750 – The main hall at Le Bourget is buzzing as delegates file in, reports our editor, Ed King. There were fears in the past hour that US unease over language on emissions cuts and an Africa Group demand to be counted as a group needing support could yet delay the talks – but these have proved unfounded.

Indian minister Prakash Javadekar says we have a “deal deal deal” and Malaysia’s Gurdial Singh says it is in the bag “unless the US scuppers its own text”. There’s a palpable sense history is about to be made.

Saleemul Huq from the IIED think tank says this will be a victory for the world’s most vulnerable countries, with the 1.5C warming goal the icing on the cake.

1743 – Al Gore and Segolene Royal enter together. China’s Xie Zhenhua gives a thumbs up to EU commissioner Miguel Arias Canete. Everyone looks relaxed. You can follow the webcast here.

We understand the French presidency does not plan to beat about the bush. Laurent Fabius will ask if there are any objections, hoping to be greeted with deafening silence, then bring the gavel down to signify the text has been agreed.

UN climate chief Christiana Figueres, who has driven the process leading up to this summit, planned to wear purple on the day a deal was adopted. Here’s her outfit – I’m told it looks purpler in real life.

In anticipation of the deal going through, here’s our wrap of what it all means: slow death for fossil fuels.

UN climate chief Christiana Figueres leans in to speak to COP president Laurent Fabius (Photo by IISD/Kiara Worth)

UN climate chief Christiana Figueres leans in to speak to COP president Laurent Fabius (Photo by IISD/Kiara Worth)

1735 – Delegates are filing in to the plenary hall, suggesting rumours the meeting had been delayed again were unfounded. John Kerry is smiling, settling into his seat.

The US issues were “not substantive”, a source assures us. Turkey also had some concerns, relating to its anomalous position of being classified as a developed country for some purposes and a developing country for others. Not a dealbreaking matter.

While we wait for it to start, here’s a shout out to St Kitts and Nevis, which became the 186th country to submit a climate pledge.

1624 – Civil society sources who have spoken to national delegations tell us the following countries and groups have signalled they will back the Paris deal on the table: China, India, Norway, AOSIS (48 small island states). The US have “a couple of legal tweaks” to suggest, we understand.

No word yet from the EU, Saudi Arabia and other major economies. Just over 40 minutes until we could find out.

1604 – There are a few issues that have bounced in and out of the text over the course of successive drafts. In the [final] version, forests and the potential for carbon trading are in, but aviation and shipping are out.

Responsible for around 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions and growing, these two sectors threaten to blow the 1.5C carbon budget, campaigners warn. Their omission from a Paris agreement leaves them to the International Civil Aviation Authority and International Maritime Organization to regulate – something they have shown little enthusiasm for to date.

“The Agreement now leaves it unclear which actors have responsibility to reduce emissions from these sectors,” says Andrew Murphy, of campaign group Transport & Environment. “If ICAO/IMO wish to retain a role, they must urgently scale up their ambition. Otherwise states and regional actors will have a right to adopt measures to ensure these sectors contribute to the 1.5C target.”

1531 – The meeting has been postponed to 5:30pm. Well, you know what French lunches can be like. There has been no suggestion of revising the text.

1522 – Avik Roy has been at an India press briefing. Negotiators had spoken to prime minister Narendra Modi and he was content with the deal, they said.

While they are not keen on the requirements for monitoring and verifying progress on emissions, they were pleased to see “climate justice” mentioned. Most of India’s red lines had been respected.

1451 – I’ve been at the CAN International press briefing, with top representatives from Greenpeace, Oxfam, Christian Aid and WWF. We’ll be putting all the NGOs’ reaction statements in a separate story shortly.

Broadly, they were happy to see 1.5C in the deal, but warned much more action would be needed to make it happen.

What does this Paris agreement do for the world’s poorest? The jury is out. Oxfam’s Tim Gore says they have been “shortchanged”; Christian Aid’s Mohamed Adow says they have not been left behind.

Perhaps surprisingly, they don’t seem concerned by small print that rules out compensation for those losing their homes or livelihoods to climate change – and liability of major emitters. That was a demand of the US and EU.

Kumi Naidoo of Greenpeace says climate lawsuits are already happening – citing a Philippines case against 15 fossil fuel majors – and civil society “will be finding creative ways of resistance”.

For Christian Aid’s Adow, the mere fact of “loss and damage” being recognised as a separate element of a Paris agreement is a victory. The caveat about liability comes in the COP decision text, which is the less enduring part of a deal.

The line is different in the climate justice briefing that follows. Victims of global warming have been “coerced and bullied,” says Azeb Girmai of LDC Watch. “It’s a sad day.”

1351 – The late resurgence of support for a 1.5C warming limit has provoked intense debate over whether that is even achievable.

Well, under this agreement, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will be asked to deliver its verdict in a special report to be delivered by 2018, alongside a stocktake of carbon-cutting progress. Expect a lot more focus on negative emissions technology in the coming years.

1343 – We’ll have all the civil society reaction shortly, then there is a plenary scheduled for 3:45pm for ministers to say whether they accept or reject the deal.

Here are a few initial observations:

  • The temperature goal is “well below 2C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5C”
  • That has been translated into an emissions goal to “achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century”
  • Loss and damage is in, with the caveat that it “does not involve or provide a basis for any liability or compensation”
  • Developed countries will continue to provide finance “through 2025”, setting quantified goals of at least US$100 billion a year


1325 – Ed King has been speaking to delegates as they emerged from the plenary – here’s what they have been saying…

Top EU negotiator Elina Bardram would not be drawn on what was said in the plenary – “We need to see the text” she said before walking off at a pace.

Poland’s Tomasz Chruszczow said there was a “good atmosphere”. Russia’s Oleg Shamanov said the meeting was “emotional” but would not be drawn on any predictions.

Claudia Salerno from Venezuela: “I don’t think this is theatre… did you see Fabius and how touched and moved he was?

“We worked strongly all night. It will be a revolutionary preamble that will call for a strong provision for climate change… human rights will be a strong element.

“Everyone was negotiating in the final hours but I think we will reach the best that we all could. We will have the best collectively that we could.”

The compromise over the so-called firewall was “beautiful,” she added.

1315 – In further evidence the deal isn’t finalised, Chinese negotiator Su Wei told Climatewire’s Lisa Friedman it was “very close”.

It’s not time to crack open the champagne yet.

1308 – This is Megan Darby taking over the live blog. Delegates have poured out of the plenary for lunch, with the text not expected for another half hour.

TV camera crews pounced on negotiators as they left the room, with the biggest scrum trailing after Laurent Fabius.

US lead envoy Todd Stern insisted he hadn’t seen the text yet, so couldn’t say what was in it. Some elements would be legally binding and when asked about what it had for Republican critics in Congress, he smiled and shrugged.

Fabius may have hit all the right buzzwords, but there was a sense he was buying time while the last issues were being frantically resolved.

Emma Ruby-Sachs, acting executive director of Avaaz, says the speeches were “moving but also nerve-wracking”.

She was pleased to hear emphasis on an “ambitious long term goal” but adds: “The rousing speeches were also because it is not done yet.”

1232  Francois Hollande finishes speech calling for diplomats to grasp agreement so “our planet can live”.

He made a personal appeal on behalf of France for all to strike the first ever universal climate agreement. December 12 will be go down in the history of mankind he said.

For now, the Comite de Paris is adjourned and will reconvene at 3:45 pm, Fabius said. The new text will be in the hands of diplomats by 1:30 pm latest. So time to get some lunch.

1221  Here’s what we know is in the text so far. Copies are to be circulated as Comite de Paris ends.

Laurent Fabius called Paris a historic turning point. Ban Ki-moon followed. Now it’s President Francois Hollande’s turn.

1216 – Key parts of Fabius speech:

1153 – The French big guns are here: president Francois Hollande, environment minister Segolene Royal and foreign minister Laurent Fabius on stage as Comite de Paris kicks off.  The text has been cut to 20 pages, AP reports.Untitled-7

1148 – High ambition Coalition walk into plenary together

1143 – Text is out, journalists queue.

1138 – Jake Schmidt from NRDC told Climate Home discussions are going right down to the wire on if and how the US might be able to accept binding finance commitments.

1131 – No food in the government area, says Latin American minister. As lunchtime approaches, there is sure to be rumbling bellies as officials chew over the deal presented to them.

Here our reporter on the ground Ed King:

“The minister expects COP president Fabius to present the text at 1130, then have 2 hours for debate – and then into a final plenary to gavel it through.

Is there still opposition to the agreement, I asked? “Nothing that can’t be sorted out with a bit of political smoothing,” he replied.”

1125 – How could the timing of a final agreement affect where COP21 ranks in the news cycle?

An earlier deal means it will get more interest with the public, journalists seem to agree.

If it lags past the early evening, that will miss the top evening slot for broadcasters, one reporter told me yesterday. Relegation to Sunday news could dilute the reach of the COP21.

And tonight at 6pm is the cup draw of the Euro 2016 football championship, moreover.

Plus tomorrow in France is the second round of regional elections. The rightwing National Front party caused an upset in the first round on Sunday 6th. A good performance for them and a bad one for Hollande’s Socialist party would dominate headlines – all to the detriment of the COP, argue some.

1102 –  More climate demonstrations are expected. A “huge” rally of up to 10,000 will gather at the Eiffel Tower at 2pm, the Guardian is reporting. They say they cannot confirm if the French authorities have approved it.

“We’ve had a two week fight with government showing our determination to mobilise, and on Friday they authorised our protest,” Malika Peyraut of Friends of the Earth International France told the Guardian.

That adds to the ‘red lines’ gathering at the Arc de Triomphe at 12 noon, which has received approval. Follow it using the hashtag #D12. More to follow.

1056 – The world is holding its breath. Various reports are flying in. This is has been cut, this segment has been saved. The twitterverse is in overdrive. But we won’t know for sure until the text is delivered to ministers at 11.30 am.

Our reporter Megan Darby failed to get a reaction from China negotiator Su Wei on whether he was happy with the text. We’ll have more from her on what it’s like on the ground shortly.

1011 – All eyes may be on Le Bourget where a hotly-anticipated new text is to be unveiled this morning. But don’t forget central Paris.

Campaigners are planning a big ‘red line’ from the Arc de Triomphe towards Paris’ financial district at noon. The French government has allowed it to go ahead despite state of emergency laws which banned a large march on November 29.

They will hold a two-minute silence at the grave of the Unknown Solider for climate victims from the past and future, and then demand a strong climate deal that signals a fossil fuel phase-out. Thousands are expected, say organisers.

1001 – Here’s a postcard to the COP presidency outlining the two asks of business and industry groups, or BINGO, courtesy of PwC analyst, Jonathan Grant.

“1. An explicit reference to the role of the private sector in the preamble of the agreement.

“2. The inclusion of wording that accelerates cooperative approaches or emissions trading.”

Business is key to implementing any UN deal in the real economy.

For more industry voices, listen to Prince of Wales’ Corporate Leaders Group’ Sandrine Dixson-Decleve on the importance of Paris’ signal to investors on the transition to a low carbon economy (video).

0932 – Some great pics from AFP of the COP president, Laurent Fabius, burning the midnight oil. So much is on his shoulders.

While he is leading the diplomacy, ambassador Laurence Tubiana has been a key strategist for the Paris COP. There’s a nice profile piece from Pilita Clark in the Financial Times, outside the paywall.

0922 – Venezuela, not always seen as the most constructive player at UN climate talks, also seems to be onside.

Top negotiator Claudia Salerno, who famously cut her hand to get attention at the 2009 Copenhagen summit, was given responsibility earlier in the week for coordinating the “preamble” section of an agreement.

It will cover human rights and Mother Earth, she tweeted this morning.

0913 – France’s president Francois Hollande and UN chief Ban Ki-moon are set to give opening speeches at the 11:30 meeting. It is clear the organisers hope this version will be endorsed by ministers as the final agreement.

Tony de Brum, the Marshall Islands minister spearheading a “high ambition coalition” at the talks, appears satisfied with the latest. He told Reuters: “I think we’re done here.”

He’s still accepting new coalition members, though, welcoming Uruguay on board just an hour ago.

The question is: do China and India accept the deal as it stands? These major emerging economies were asking for more references to rich countries’ responsibilities to lead.

0858 – Loss and damage, long a pressure point in talks, WILL be in the climate agreement, according to the Least Developed Countries.

The bloc of the world’s poorest 48 said in a statement they are “optimistic” about language relating to the mechanism to address damages from extreme weather.

They are also confident an inclusion of a 1.5 goal, 5-year cycles, and clear reference to “new and additional” climate finance.

Vulnerable countries have fought hard to have losses and damages from climate change recognised for several years, but rich countries are wary of footing a large bill as the planet warms.

“The LDCs expect a loss and damage mechanism to be anchored within the agreement, although we agree we must figure out how to deal with the valid liability concerns being expressed,” said Angolan diplomat and spokesperson, Giza Gaspar Martins.

“There is a commitment from the Presidency and parties to resolve this in the final text, so we are confident that there will be consensus reached on this issue.”

On Friday, Tuvalu’s envoy told Climate Home he expected language on “compensation and liability” to return to the text.

0852 – Here’s a round-up of the international press this morning

Paris climate talks extended until Saturday (Financial Times, $)

Obama calls Xi Jinping in final push for a deal (Guardian)

Climate deal final draft ‘agreed’ in Paris (BBC)

All conditions ripe to reach universal, ambitious agreement: COP21 president (Xinhua)

Aid question holds up deal at Paris climate talks (Wall Street Journal)

0847 – Good morning. I’m Alex Pashley and what a day we have in store for you.

COP watchers are optimistic today will see the end of the two-week COP21 marathon, after talks already passed a French-imposed deadline of Friday 6pm.

Yesterday saw no new text, but plenty of back room meetings and speculation. Brazil threw its weight behind the ‘high ambition coalition’, which  its chair Tony de Brum says counts over 100 members. China, not a member, hit back saying it too was “ambitious”.

The text at some point this morning left the hands of negotiators for lawyers and translators, and is set to be released at 11:30am. That is when Comite de Paris meets and ministers will reveal whether they accept or reject the deal on the table. Stay tuned

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