Global Climate Talks Face Challenges

February 14, 2015

Officials negotiating a sweeping global pact on climate change watered down a draft of the agreement this week in an effort to include the conflicting priorities of a broad range of countries.  The bloated text, now 86 pages long, means officials from around the world now have much more work to do this year to narrow down the numerous options to a single agreement set to be signed in December in Paris.

Industrialized countries are leading the push to curb carbon-dioxide emissions to fight climate change, but many developing economies want a freer hand to boost energy consumption amid rapid growth, as well as money to finance emissions cuts. This week’s gathering followed a high-level December meeting in Lima, Peru, that was marked by divisions between developed and developing countries.

 

The draft text expanded to allow all countries to record priorities ranging from rescuing island nations from rising sea levels to a proposed tax on oil exports from developing countries to their developed peers.  “They punted on the big things,” said Kyle Ash, senior legislative director at Greenpeace, an activist group focused on environmental risks.

 

The countries are eyeing a global agreement with some legal force that would require all countries to commit to reducing emissions over time. The goal is to prevent a global average temperature increase of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels, but observers say the deal signed in Paris likely won’t put countries on that trajectory.

 

Instead, many officials are supporting a plan that would require countries to offer new commitments to carbon reductions every five years with the goal of eventually achieving a path that would eventually halt 2 degrees of warming, according to models from U.N. scientists.

 

But the climate talks face domestic opposition in many countries, and Republicans in Washington have vowed to block the administration’s new regulations for power plants, the centerpiece of the U.S. contribution to the global agreement.

 

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change, said she was “extremely encouraged by the constructive spirit.”

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