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Saturday, 13 December 2014

196 Nations Near Preliminary Climate Change Deal.............

LIMA, Peru — Negotiators from around the globe were haggling Saturday over the final elements of a draft climate change deal that would, for the first time in history, commit every nation to cutting its greenhouse gas emissions — yet would still fall far short of what is needed to stave off the dangerous and costly early impacts of global warming.
Delegates from the world’s 196 countries have been working for two weeks here, in a temporary complex of white tents at the headquarters of the Peruvian Army, to produce the framework of a climate change accord to be signed by world leaders in Paris next year. While United Nations officials had been scheduled to release the plan on Friday at noon, longstanding divisions between rich and poor countries kept them wrangling through Friday night and well into Saturday.

That basic structure represents a breakthrough in the impasse that has plagued the United Nations’ 20 years of efforts to create a serious global warming deal. Until now, negotiations had followed a divide put in place by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which required that developed countries act but did not require anything of developing nations, including China and India, two of the largest greenhouse gas polluters.At its core, the draft is expected to require every nation to put forward, over the next six months, a detailed domestic policy plan to cut its emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases from coal, gas and oil. Those plans, which would be published on a United Nations website, would form the basis of the accord to be signed next December and enacted by 2020.

By requiring action from every country, the Lima framework will fundamentally change the old world order that stymied earlier climate change talks. But on its own, that political breakthrough will not achieve the stated goal of the deal: to stop the rate of global emissions enough to prevent the atmosphere from warming more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit over the pre-industrial average. That is the point at which scientists say the planet will tip into dangerous and irreversible effects, such as melting sea ice, rising sea levels, increased flooding and droughts, food and water shortages, and more extreme storms.
Speaking to delegates here on Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry said, “We’re still on a course leading to tragedy.”
Given the current level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and the fact that the new plans would not be enacted until 2020, most experts say the best that can be hoped for is that the deal would cut emissions by about half as much as is needed to stop the 3.6-degree rise.
“Nobody here thinks an agreement will be a silver bullet that eliminates this threat,” Mr. Kerry said. “But we can’t get anywhere without an agreement.”
By early Saturday, delegates and negotiators were cautiously optimistic that a deal would emerge later in the day, but the language was much weaker than many nations, particularly those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, wanted to see.
And even though the emerging deal represented progress on the old divide of rich and poor, those divisions were still evident as nations fought over crucial details.
Developing nations, led by China, have balked at proposals that would allow aggressive outside monitoring and verification of each country’s plan before a deal is signed next year. The policy plans and the level of cuts each country commits to will be voluntary, and the final draft is unlikely to include a provision, pushed for by advocacy groups, that would require a public adding of the plans and the creation of a new metric to show how many more cuts would be required to prevent the 3.6-degree temperature rise.
Nations that are exceptionally vulnerable to the effects of climate change, like small island states and arid African countries, have demanded that in addition to putting forth plans to cut their carbon emissions, rich countries be required to pledge money to help poor countries adapt to the coming ravages. That is a nonstarter for rich nations like the United States, although the final language may include provisions for voluntary contributions.
“It’s the weakest option,” said Jan Kowalzig, a climate policy expert at the aid group Oxfam. “It’s not totally bad, but it’s mediocre.”
Antonio Marcondes, Brazil’s ambassador to the conference, said he would continue to push for provisions demanding that developing nations receive financing to help them reduce carbon emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change.
“We’re still concerned about differentiation, in all its forms,” said Mr. Marcondes, whose country, like China and India, is one of the world’s largest polluters and also home to millions of impoverished people.
In remarks to fellow delegates last week, India’s environment minister, Prakash Javadekar, said the deal “should be able to address the genuine requirements of the developing countries by providing them equitable carbon space to achieve sustainable development and eradicate poverty.”
Major oil-producing nations are also demanding that the deal include special provisions for them. Saudi Arabia has complained that any agreement designed to reduce consumption of fossil fuels like oil threatens its economy. Just as vulnerable island nations have called for financing to help them adapt to the ravages of climate change, Saudi Arabia has called for money to adapt to a world in which its economy is imperiled by climate change policy. Some negotiators feared that the Saudi delegation could try to stop progress on the deal at the last minute.
One country that had been viewed as a wild card, and as a possible last-minute disrupter in the talks, was Russia. President Vladimir V. Putin has publicly scoffed at the science of human-caused climate change. But the lead Russian negotiator, Oleg Shamanov, expressed criticism this weekend of other countries that had slowed the process of forging a deal.
“Unfortunately, again and again, we step on the same rakes,” Mr. Shamanov said at about 4 a.m. on Saturday, after a fraught negotiating session broke up. “The draft is not bad, per se. We strongly support the idea of having meaningful deliverables.” He added that Russia, whose economy is deeply dependent on oil and natural gas production, was already working on its plan to cut emissions.
“We are one of the few countries doing it,” he said.
Even if those divisions are resolved, much of the success of the Lima deal will be determined over the coming months, as governments put forth their plans.
Paul Bledsoe, an aide to the Clinton administration on climate change who is now with the German Marshall Fund of the United States, said, “The really difficult issues — financing, adaptation, monitoring and ultimate emissions reductions — are left to be ironed out over the next 12 months.”