The French leadership of the global climate change summit in Paris last night ramped up pressure for an early agreement with a new draft that removed hundreds of disputed issues.
Almost six hours after it was due, the French foreign minister and president of the COP21 summit, Laurent Fabius, last night presented a 27-page document which had pared down the number of square-bracketed text (issues in dispute) to 50, compared to 361 in the text from 24 hours before.
“We are extremely close to the finishing line, we need effort to find common ground,” Mr Fabius told ministers from 195 countries when presenting the draft last night.
“I think I will be able to present the final text tomorrow. I think, dear friends, that we will make it.”
There is what was described as significant progress in the new text. For the first time there is an undisputed ambition to hold the increase in global average temperature to “well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue effort to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius,” he said.
However, there are still major gaps on the three big issues that have divided negotiators at the talks: transparency (ensuring countries and parties live up to their promises), differentiation (the respective responsibilities of rich countries developing countries) and long-term ambition.
However, the text does includes political breakthroughs in the setting of a long-term goal, a mechanism for transparency, as well as a means of ratcheting-up ambition.
To achieve aspirations to curb global warming, the agreement would require meaningful and specific commitments. The inclusion of five-year reviews – to encourage countries to make more ambitious pledges – is seen as a gain. It will also start from a relatively early date; 2019.
"Coming into COP21 we knew the pledges were too weak [to] limit global temperatures to no lower than 2.7 degrees," said Dr Diarmuid Torney from DCU, an expert on climate change policy.
"In that context, the setting of long term goals, a transparency mechanism, and the ratcheting-up mechanism, which Saudi Arabia and India opposed, is a positive development."
Environmental groups and aid agencies expressed dismay at what they saw was a considerable softening of the text, as well as the removal of some key goals from the main text.
said the new text was considerably weaker “from the perspective of poor vulnerable communities with which we work.
“There is a row-back on some of the key principles. The provisions on human rights are now only in the preamble and not in the main body of the text, which, means they are not legally binding. What that means that any measures to enforce the climate agreement will not be bound by human rights standards.”
Her colleague Jerry MacEvilly criticised the EU for not pushing an ambitious agenda on this issue or on the issue of food security.
The latest draft includes a specific long-term goal to move towards “greenhouse gas emissions neutrality in the second half of the century”.
While that is seen as lacking ambition by environmental agencies, others see it as much as could be achieved given the diversity of strong opinions among the 196 states attending the summit.