Divisions remain as COP21 summit enters final stages

Major issues far from being reconciled with 24 hours to go before deadline

Efforts to reach a historic global agreement on climate change entered a critical stage last night as it became clear a new text has not overcome major fault lines over global warming.

With a little over 24 hours to go before the deadline set by the French presidency for COP21 to conclude, deep divisions over three major issues remained far from being reconciled.

The new cleaner text was published yesterday afternoon and had been reduced from 43 pages to 29 pages. For the first time the text gave two (and occasionally three) explicit options on key issues.

On the core matter of the limit of global temperature increase, three options were offered: below 2 degrees Celsius; well below 2 degree Celsius with a textual reference to moving towards 1.5 degrees Celsius; or, thirdly, to below 1.5 degree Celsius.


Crunch issues

The crunch issues were identified by the COP president, French foreign minister

Laurent Fabius

, as: financing (the amount paid by rich countries to poorer countries to respond to climate change); ambition (the speed and intensity of the shift to zero emissions in the long term) and differentiation.

Until now, under differentiation rules, only rich countries have been obliged to reduce emissions, but the US and others want quickly-developing countries to begin to reduce emissions, a position that has been strongly opposed by those countries, which includes India and China.

Mr Fabius said a further new draft would be published this afternoon. “It will be as close as possible to what the agreement would be on Friday. It’s not the final text but an additional step forward.”


However, reaction to the text from negotiators was mixed last night. While praising the French approach to the process, the

European Union

expressed broad disappointment at the ambition levels. It was particularly critical of the exclusion of aviation and marine emissions.

Other delegates spoke of the lack of balance in the text with the G77 group led by South Africa criticising the provisions over adaptation and loss and damage.

Crucially, there was strong support for the view that the French draft text provided the basis for an agreement.

The talks received another impetus when US secretary of state John Kerry announced it would be doubling its funding to climate-vulnerable countries to $5 billion a year.

“We are prepared to do our part and we will not leave the most vulnerable nations among us to, quite literally, weather the storm alone,” he said.

Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly expressed cautious optimism at Le Bourget last night. "Unlike Copenhagen there is not a wide range of issues that need to be resolved . . . It is likely to go through the night. By Thursday we will know the shape of the agreement."

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times