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Climate change negotiators head for final agreement

Posted on: December 11, 2015 2:31 PM
The UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon addresses the twenty-first session of the Conference of Parties (COP21) climate change conference in Paris
Photo Credit: UN Photo / Rick Bajornas
Related Categories: climate change, COP21, Global

[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] Negotiations at the UN-led Climate Change talks in Paris (COP21) will continue up to and beyond the wire, with a final agreement not expected until tomorrow – the day after the talks were due to come to an end.

The French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, the chair of the talks, said he would present another draft agreement to the negotiators from almost 200 countries at 9am French time tomorrow (Saturday).

“We are nearly there, I’m optimistic,” he told journalists, saying that he was “sure” that the revised text, which he described as “a big step forward for humanity as a whole,” would be agreed.

The UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon described the negotiations as “most complicated, most difficult, but, most important for humanity.”

Negotiators representing more than 190 countries have spent the past two weeks trying to reach agreement; but a draft text issued on Wednesday contained more than 300 areas where agreement was still required.

Areas of disagreement included the level at which the countries would agree to limit global temperature rises.

“Many countries, including island States that are threatened by rising sea levels, consider themselves in danger beyond 1.5°C, but such an objective would require considerable efforts by the major emitters, such as China and India, who are against such a threshold,” the French presidency of the COP21 talks said.

“In the text proposed on Wednesday, all options remain open, including only 2°C, only 1.5°C, or, very probably, a compromise wording reaffirming the 2°C goal, combined with ‘increased efforts’ to achieve 1.5°C.”

They say: “Out of 195 countries, 185 have announced measures to limit or reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 or 2030. But even if these commitments are fulfilled, temperatures would still be set to rise by around 3°C.

“The text is split between precise, ambitious objectives – reducing emissions by 40 per cent to 70 per cent (scenario to achieve 2°C) or by 70 per cent to 95 per cent (scenario for 1.5°C) by 2050 compared to 2010, or the achievement of zero emissions by the middle of the century – and vague wording, only committing the Parties to act ‘over the course of this century.’”

The biggest stumbling block is thought to be financial compensation from developed countries to those in the developing world who will be hit hardest by forced reductions in emissions.

“In 2009, the rich countries promised to spend $100 billion [USD] per year by 2020 in order to fund the climate policies of developing countries,” the COP21 presidency said. “The latter want that budget to be increased after 2020, to finance their clean energy sources as well as measures of adaptation to the effects of global warming (embankments, weather warnings, resistant crops, etc.), emphasizing the importance of more predictable ‘public funds’. A balance seems to have been found between these two areas of spending.

“But industrialized countries do not wish to be the only ones paying, and want a contribution from countries like China, South Korea, Singapore and the rich oil-producing countries, for example. One option proposes that ‘All Parties’ should contribute, but ‘with developed country Parties taking the lead.’ Another option only requires efforts from developed countries.”

Anglican leaders have been among ecumenical and inter-faith representatives who have been in Paris taking part in a number of initiatives to put pressure on the politicians and negotiators to agree a fair deal for the world’s poor.

A number of pilgrimages set off from various points to arrive in Paris before the talks, including one organised by the Church of England from London with the support of Cafod, Christian Aid and Tearfund.

On arrival in Paris they took part in a Faith in Climate Justice event where a collection of faith-based petitions – which then stood at 1,780,528 signatures – were presented to the executive secretary of the UN Frameworks for the Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres.

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Archbishop Thabo Makgoba hands over petitions organised by faith communities containing the signatures of 1,780,528 people from around the world calling for action on climate change to the executive secretary of the UN Frameworks for the Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres.
Photo: Sarah Rowe, Christian Aid

Ms Figueres, who was moved to tears by the occasion, thanked the thousands of people who had walked, cycled and marched worldwide to express solidarity with communities hit by climate-related impacts, saying: “I would like to thank you for your messages, for almost two million signatures, for your walking, for your praying, for your singing, for being who you are. . . There were people walking in every continent, making a total of 280,000km: that is the equivalent of having walked seven times around the world.”

They pilgrims had intended to take part in a large march through Paris on the eve of the talks but increased security as a result of the Paris terror attacks earlier in November meant that all large marches were cancelled.

Instead, marchers left their shoes on the streets of Paris as a symbolic gesture of an invisible march.

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On the eve of the opening of the COP21 talks, demonstrators gathered in the Place de la Republique in Paris, leaving shoes as a symbol of solidarity with the nearly two million people expected to take part in a march which was stopped for security reasons.
Photo: Sean Hawkey / WCC

On 1 December, the Archbishop of Cape Town, Dr Thabo Makgoba, sat down for a meal with a difference – there was no food. It was a visual symbol of the “Fast For The Climate” initiative.

“As one of those who have been fasting for climate change - and in solidarity with those who don't have food - on the first day of every month, I joined a group who have been doing this fast for two years,” Archbishop Makgoba said. “To drive the point home, at lunchtime we sat a table with a ‘menu’ in a passageway at the talks, and took turns to sit there, 10 of us at a time in 10-minute shifts to comply with a police regulation prohibiting gatherings of more than that.

“Our plates were empty and our cutlery unused as we shared why we were fasting, drawing from the wealth and plenty of our spiritual wells.”

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Archbishop Thabo Makgoba joins an interfaith group of religious leaders sitting in front of empty trays during a public action promoting the Fast for the Climate campaign during the COP21 UN climate summit in Paris.
Photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler / Lutheran World Federation

An ecumenical service of prayer for the talks was held at France’s iconic Notre Dame Roman Catholic cathedral on 3 December. The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew sent a message which was read to the congregation, saying: “It is our moral obligation to engage actively in favour of environmental protection. It is not too late to act, but we cannot allow ourselves to put off until tomorrow what we can do today.”

Yesterday (Thursday) the President of France, François Hollande, held a reception for faith leaders and other campaigners and praised their efforts as they delivered a collection of petitions containing more than 1.8 million signatures calling for climate justice.

President Hollande reminded the inter-faith group that the primary role of the conference negotiators was to “deal with the future of the planet.” He said: “It is a responsibility that we can't walk away from. . . Your message, your petitions, must be heard, and this voice you're bringing, must be listened to.”

The Bishop of Salisbury, Nicholas Holtam, told the President that “People of all faiths urge all partiers to agree on a Paris deal applicable to all. Following the acts of terrorism in this city we want the world to act together, in care of our common home.”

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Bishop Nicholas Holtam meets the French President François Hollande as part of a delegation of faith leaders.
Photo: Sean Hawkey / WCC

Anglican, ecumenical and other faith leaders, as well as a number of Christian based aid and development agencies, are continuing to demand a fair deal for the poor and will be reading the final agreement with care.