The News From Paris

The negotiations at the UN Global Climate Change Conference in Paris were scheduled to conclude today. But this morning, Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister and chair of the talks, announced that they will extend into Saturday (some expect they’ll go through Sunday).

The good news is that, in a new draft agreement that was released yesterday, there was positive movement on a big issue.

One issue that had divided nations earlier in the conference appeared to be largely resolved, with a consensus emerging around acknowledging the need for a more aggressive temperature goal in the draft, according to one source. Though current proposed text sticks with the target agreed at a previous climate conference of limiting the rise in global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius (3.8 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, it also says countries should “pursue efforts” to hit the more ambitious goal of 1.5 degrees (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).

Graham Readfearn brings us the reaction to this from Australian Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, who has been researching the impacts of global warming and greenhouse gases on coral reefs since the mid 1980s.

Hoegh-Guldberg says he is “shocked” at even the prospect of a deal being struck this weekend in Paris.

“I thought that we might have had a Copenhagen moment – but people seem to be coming from a position of working with the system, instead of gaming it.”

What delights Hoegh-Guldberg even more is that under the current draft of the Paris agreement, there’s a statement that calls for countries to keep global warming “well below 2C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5C”.

That statement, he says, matches almost word for word a call that Hoegh-Guldberg and other world leading coral scientists made in the lead up to the Paris talks.

“I thought that request was a little extreme,” he admits.

“But now it’s there in the text.

Andrew Restuccia reports that the remaining issues to be negotiated are: “financial support for poor nations and transparency of the domestic actions the countries will take to trim their emissions of carbon dioxide.” He also indicates that the two countries who are at odds with the consensus on those issues are China and India. Secretary of State Kerry has held bilateral meetings with both countries and today, President Obama personally called Chinese President Xi Jinping in an attempt to reach agreement.

Whatever the outcome of these final negotiations, it seems clear that we are on the cusp of an historic moment for the planet that will arrive sometime this weekend.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.