At the close of a marathon negotiating session that ended at 5:40 AM local time, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius warned delegates to the United Nations climate summit in Paris that “we shall have to make our choices” on the final dimensions of the deal by mid-day Saturday.
As observers parsed the pros and cons of the emerging deal, The Daily Tck declared that “the fossil fuel era ends here in Paris. It will take some years to complete the transition, but this deal will massively accelerate the growth of clean energy infrastructure, scaling the technology we already have and driving further innovation.”
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Observed Gerard Wynn on the Energy and Carbon Blog: “Powerful fossil fuel economies such as Saudi Arabia, as well as large developing countries such as China and India, might attempt to dilute a commitment to phase out greenhouse gas emissions. But a collapse of the talks appeared unlikely, given that the French hosts received so much support from world leaders at the launch of the conference last week.”
Outside the negotiating area, where delegates were expected to spend the day in private negotiations, activity at the Le Bourget conference centre north of Paris was off to a slow start Friday morning. After 11 days of intense discussions, workshops, research releases, funding announcements, rallies, lobbying, and arm-twisting, there was very little left for the majority of COP 21 participants to do until the final text is released Saturday morning.
Informal conversations were already turning to the front-line advocacy that will be needed after everyone gets home: To build on the gains in the Paris Agreement, and to fill the gaps between the level of ambition in the final deal and the need to keep average global warming below 1.5°C, decarbonize the global economy by 2050, and deliver financing and technology transfer for the countries and regions most vulnerable to climate change.
Observers’ analysis onsite showed a balance between the advances at this year’s climate summit and the work that still lies ahead. “There are many important impacts of this deal,” the Tck reported Friday at 2 AM local time, and “the latest draft agreement shows significant progress since yesterday.” The agreement itself topped the list of achievements.
“195 countries, the world, has committed to tackling climate change, and they have all done it together,” Wiese wrote. “Almost every country made a contribution in the run-up to this meeting, and that spirit of constructive cooperation has pervaded this meeting.” For years, developing countries have wanted a global climate agreement to recognize developed countries’ historical responsibility for the vast majority of atmospheric emissions. “But every country now acknowledges that all countries, big and small, rich and poor, have to act if we are to avoid further dangerous interference with the climate system.”
The agreement is considered ambitious, with an objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to zero this century and making a transition to 100% clean energy by mid-century, Wiese adds. The latest draft is “fair, fairly ambitious, and creates the platform we need for the final Paris Agreement,” partly because “everyone has won something significant in getting this far.”
Marshall Islands Foreign Minister Tony De Brum pointed to “a clear recognition that the world must work towards limiting warming to below 1.5°C, and that it would be much safer to do so. With this, I would be able to go home and tell my people that our chance for survival is not lost.”
But Jennifer Morgan of the World Resources Institute, among many others, warned that the deal isn’t done yet. “The big question is which leaders are going to step forward to grasp this moment and make the agreement both fair and ambitious,” she said. “Ten days ago, leaders came to Paris calling for a strong climate agreement. Now those leaders need to start picking up the phone and work together to turn those words into action.”
Other observers pointed to several positives, including a commitment to five-year reviews of countries’ carbon reduction commitments, the long-term goal of greenhouse gas emissions neutrality, the reference to the 1.5° target in the operational text of the agreement, a five-year cycle beginning in 2023 to take stock of climate change mitigation and finance efforts, and a floor of $100 billion per year for climate finance to developing and vulnerable countries.
“The current draft could be stronger, but the door is still open to increase ambition over time,” said Tasneem Essop of WWF International. “The negotiating text now includes a goal of keeping us well below 2°C of warming, and a reference to a 1.5°C temperature limit,” but “there is a huge problem with the options for loss and damage” for countries vulnerable to the unavoidable impacts of climate change. “The current options provide no hope for people who will suffer the impacts of climate change the hardest.”
In its overnight newsletter, ECO, Climate Action Network International urged negotiators to:
- Set a course for “full decarbonization, with no tricks (like non-permanent offsetting and geoengineering)” as a path to full emissions neutrality in the second half of the century
- Affirm that all countries will “respect the Convention in full,” while acknowledging historical responsibility for GHG emissions and differences in countries’ economic conditions
- Commit to “finally end all fossil fuel subsidies, stop financing carbon-intensive investments, or indeed commit to divestment”
- Begin updating and strengthening countries’ five-year carbon reduction commitments as soon as the agreement goes into force in 2020
- Resolve a largely mythical dispute over liability and compensation for loss and damage
- Embrace transparency over countries’ compliance with the agreement
- Entrench a commitment to human rights and Indigenous peoples’ rights in Article 2, “the heart of the agreement”.