Climate pact: Battle lines redrawn in the blueprint

French President Hollande attends the Action Day on December 5, 2015 at the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le B
French President Hollande attends the Action Day on December 5, 2015 at the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris Negotiators from 195 nations delivered a blueprint today for a pact to save mankind from disastrous global warming, raising hopes that decades of arguments will finally end with a historic agreement in Paris.

Diplomats crafting the blueprint for a worldwide climate rescue deal tendered their 48-page offering, concluding a bitter four-year haggle that seemed often to teeter on the brink of collapse.

While the Draft Paris Agreement has been welcomed as a crucial step in the right direction, it remains littered with clashing proposals from countries at odds on how to divvy up responsibility for curbing Earth-warming greenhouse gases, and forking out the cash.

Environment ministers face a considerable task when they gather from Monday to translate the template into a 195-nation plan to preserve our planet's hospitable climate and the future of humankind.

These are the crunch issues:

Money, money, money

In 2009, rich countries pledged to mobilise $100 billion (92 billion euros) a year in climate finance for from 2020.

The money must ease the shift from cheap and abundant coal to ("mitigation", in climate jargon), and shore up defences ("adaptation") against such as freak storms, drought and sea-level rise.

But does private money count? And loans? What about money from richer, fellow developing nations, multilateral agencies and development aid? Who qualifies for funding? How much of the money will go to mitigation, and how much to adaptation?

These are the questions still dividing developing nations and rich ones, many of which resist attempts to write any obligation or liability into the text.

More recently, the world's poorest nations are demanding additional money to cover climate change-induced losses.

Blame game

The talks are taking place under the auspices of a 1992 climate treaty which enshrined the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities".

An Indian man carries gas canisters through floodwaters on a street in Chennai on December 4, 2015
An Indian man carries gas canisters through floodwaters on a street in Chennai on December 4, 2015

It assumed that rich countries have polluted for longer, and bear a bigger responsibility for addressing the resulting problem—a distinction developing nations wish to retain.

They also demand some leeway on coal use as millions of people rise out of poverty.

Wealthy countries argue much has changed in 20 years, and nations once tagged "developing" have become big polluters in their own right.

China is now the world's number one greenhouse gas emitter, and India is number four after the United States and European Union.

How hot is too hot?

In 2010, UN countries adopted a goal of limiting average global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-Industrial Revolution levels.

But small island states and many poor nations—which will be hit first and hardest by the impact of climate change—are pushing for a lower ceiling of 1.5 C.

The draft agreement lists both temperature targets as options under the caption "Purpose". It will now be up to ministers to take the political decision which one they retain, or perhaps both.

Slashing emissions

Sean Penn speaking at the COP21 UN conference on climate change in Le Bourget on December 5, 2015
Sean Penn speaking at the COP21 UN conference on climate change in Le Bourget on December 5, 2015

The agreement's very "long-term goal" is still in dispute.

Will it set a deadline for emissions to peak and a rate for their decline thereafter? Will it set a target date for reaching zero emissions? Will it call for carbon to be removed in its entirety from the energy economy? All the options are still in there.

Ratcheting

A pillar of the Paris agreement is a list of voluntary national pledges for reducing emissions from burning coal, oil and gas.

But commitments received so far, even if fully honoured, place the world on course for warming far beyond the targeted safe level, scientists say.

Many countries want a mechanism to periodically review, and ramp up, the pledges.

But how often will assessments take place? From when? Will there be an obligation on nations to automatically improve on their earlier pledges, and how frequently?

Legal questions

Falling under the UN forum, the agreement will be considered "binding" under international law—though there is no penalty for non-compliance, merely a loss of face.


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© 2015 AFP

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Dec 06, 2015
Binding agreement to 1.5. Let's all cross fingers and hope.

It won't happen, of course. The larger economies will buy their way out of their obligations as usual.

Dec 13, 2015
Binding agreement to 1.5. Let's all cross fingers and hope.

It won't happen, of course. The larger economies will buy their way out of their obligations as usual.

If you and your Chicken Little flock stopped burning fossil fuels then that target is easily reachable, but then, what would become of your shameless hypocrisy.

Dec 13, 2015
Thanks, antigoracle, that statement makes even less sense than usual. Well done.

But thanks for confirming you do actually accept the science of climate change. Welcome to 1996.

Dec 14, 2015
OK. Let me help you with that.
First find someone with a brain and then let them help you answer the following.
1 - Do you know what carbon footprint is?
2 - Do you know what your fossil fuel carbon footprint is?
3 - Do you know what you would need to do to reduce your carbon footprint to meet the target for your country?

Dec 14, 2015
Look up "begging the question" and then realise what your original comment actually said. Thanks for coming onboard!

Dec 14, 2015
Yep, I'm begging you to get help by finding someone with a brain.
What and who, do you think constitutes those larger economies you refer too?
How will they buy their way out?

Dec 14, 2015
Dear antigoracle

Ignoring for a moment the stupidity of claiming that, rather than restructuring the world economy away from the reliance of fossil fuels, all we really need to do is switch three phys.org commenters to solar panels, your argument is that we can easily reach a 1.5 degree target by reduction of emissions - albeit by three phys.org commenters.

You have therefore accepted the relationship of carbon emissions to temperature increases and have now accepted the science of climate change. You are - to use your inane rhetoric - a 'Chicken Little'.

Like I said, welcome aboard! It's about time. So glad to see you finally accept the science.

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