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Paris burns the midnight oil, climate talks go into overtime

Eleven days of bruising international diplomacy in the French capital appeared to finally open the door to an elusive deal, now expected to be delivered one day after the original Friday evening deadline.

world Updated: Dec 11, 2015 18:06 IST
Hindustan Times
Paris climate change talks,climate change,pollution
People attend a demonstration inside the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris.(Reuters)

India and China on Friday opposed dilution of bifurcation of developed and developing, and raised scaling up of financial obligations of rich nations as the United States said it was comfortable with the language in the penultimate draft of the Paris climate agreement.

The three biggest emitters fighting it out at Indaba (Zulu word for meeting) showed that a final deal still eludes exhausted negotiators who would be spending the weekend ironing out their differences.

US Secretary of State John Kerry is said to have supported new definition of differentiation and to expand donor base for climate finance in the draft. But the developing world including India and China has termed such reference unacceptable without enhanced finance on the table, sources said.

A clear roadmap on finance can seal the deal in Paris as another round of negotiations continued through Friday after a break of couple of hours with a new draft expected on Saturday, a day after the conference officially closes. Another positive indication was that the language of negotiators was of compromise as against of confrontation in earlier climate conferences.

For the first time an ‘accommodative’ 29-page draft provided real hope of a comprehensive climate deal, but it fell short of high ambition as heads of states had wanted.

Climate justice issue, highlighted by Modi, missing from Paris summit

Bridging options for countries to take call on critical issues eased much of the debate but negotiators remained tough and accusations flew thick and fast, with conference president Laurent Fabius fighting against time to resolve contentious issues on differentiation, climate finance and ambition.

Fabius was nevertheless confident that a deal would happen soon as he set up closed Indaba of solutions where he and the environment minister from Peru sat with heads of delegations to sort out the remaining sticky points.

Bifurcation of countries based on historical and present circumstances (called differentiation), high ambition and how to increase climate finance continues to divide the nations as the two ministries are expected to bridge the differences in the next 48 hours or so.

Vulnerable nations termed the draft as weak for a “just” climate deal though experts called it “significant”.

“Convergence is high but striking compromise takes lot of time,” explained a sleep deprived negotiator on why the final agreement may take long hours, adding that the deal is unlikely before late Saturday night or Sunday.

Activists of global anti-poverty charity Oxfam wearing masks depicting some of the world leaders stage a protest outside the venue of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 near Paris. (Reuters)

The meeting and the bilateral talks in the last few days had indicated that the resolution on differentiation was possible as the draft realigned bifurcation as developing and developed countries and has mentioned it in all the six elements as sought by developing countries like India. But the formula for deciding which nations fall which category was yet to be resolved. There is an opposition to determine the “new” developing world on the basis of per capita income or emissions.

Although the draft speaks about obligation of the rich nations to scale up finance post 2020 from US$ 100 billion, it failed to quantify it, another reason of concern for developing countries. There is also no clarity on pre-2020 finance as sought by India.

On the other hand, the draft appears to have addressed the issue of rich nations, especially United States, on expanding the donor base, saying other countries who are “willing” can provide the funds.

There was also more clarity on determining how and where the money would be spent but enhanced.

Forward movement on a transparency regime was also addressed, with the text providing a couple of balancing options for negotiators. The draft asks for a review of climate action plans in 2019 and 2023.

For India, there was some consolation as climate justice and sustainable lifestyle found mention in the preamble but not in the operational text. Sources said that India still had some concern over the language in the article on finance and differentiation and it was working with other countries to resolve them.

First Published: Dec 11, 2015 12:30 IST