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Draft Climate Agreement Just Released!

On Saturday, December 5, 2915 negotiators from 195 countries adopted a draft agreement aimed at reducing global carbon emissions and limiting global warming. This initiative is part of the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21/CMP11), the annual meeting of all countries who want to take action for the climate.

This is a significant step in the multinational effort to keep global warming below the 2°C target. But – it is cluttered with disputed sections and competing options that are set off in brackets too numerous to count. This draft agreement leaves negotiators with the job of finding common ground for what needs to become an achievable, enforceable pact to fight global warming.  And they have just six days to do it.

Nothing has been decided and nothing will be left behind. This text marks the will of all to reach an agreement. We are not at the end of the route. Major political issues are yet to be resolved.

French climate ambassador Laurence Tubiana

What is the Goal of COP 21?

The goal for this year’s conference is to achieve a legally-binding agreement with universal participation among all nations that would global warming below the critical threshold of 2°C above preindustrial levels. This would be accomplished by:

  • Curbing emissions of greenhouse gases and encouraging the development of renewable energies and supporting lower-emission modes of transport.
  • Boosting poor countries’ capacities to withstand climate shocks. This includes a $100 billion-per-year commitment from developed countries to developing nations to help them combat climate change and encourage sustainable development.

The good news is that the draft agreement addresses deforestation, food security, and poverty. It includes sections that focus on what developed countries can do to reduce carbon dioxide missions by a “yet-to-be-determined level” by 2050. And it sets forth what developed countries need to do to help other countries, “ensuring the provision of finance,technology and capacity building from developed countries to developing countries”.

But concerns remain that limiting warming to 2°C over pre-industrial levels will not be an easy goal for negotiators to reach.  But this is really the minimum that needs to be achieved.  According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the planet has warmed by 0.85 degrees Celsius since 1880, and many scientists say the world already on track for warming beyond 2°C . They question whether limiting warming to 2°C will be enough to ensure climate disaster can be avoided.

What Must Be Done

The success of this agreement will require reductions in emissions in the near term, especially from the largest emitters such as the United States and China. It also will require commitments to sustainable development from all countries, which must be financed by the more wealthy developed nations.

Where this money comes from is expected to be a major negotiating point. Because far too much has been left to agree upon, there are concerns that too many compromises will be made in an effort to reach a final agreement.

It’s going to be quite a sprint for ministers to secure a strong deal by Friday. The French COP Presidency now has the responsibility to take us to the finish line. The draft negotiating text, while more clear in terms of options, still reflects most of the divergences amongst countries. This will require immense skill on the part of the French Presidency and absolute cooperation between governments to mediate these differences.

We’re hoping that in the rush to the end, ministers do not trade ambition for expediency, and remain true to the science,

Tasneem Essop, WWF

Will negotiators see past their self interest, and understand how important it is to act now to avoid irreversible climate disruption? The next six days in Paris can, with enough political will, provide the structure for an agreement that avoids another mass extinction, protecting and preserving this planet for future generations to come.

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