Final countdown: new draft signals an ambitious Paris agreement

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Earth Journalism Network, Paris

The Paris climate negotiation has come to a crucial moment. Within a few hours, parties would gather together and finish the final miles for achieving the Paris Agreement.

After days of hard work, parties have come out an ambitious and balanced agreement, says COP21 President Laurent Fabius this morning,

The new draft for adoption was released at 1:30pm CET on December 12. Once adopted, the text would mark the first universal and legal-binding agreement in human history on climate change.

The UN climate change negotiation, which was issued to be end at Friday, has delayed one day.

On December 12, Laurent Fabius joined with UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon and France President Nicolas Hulot, represent the committee plenary at noon.

Fabius says in the plenary that the new Paris Agreement text, which will be presented and to be adopted by 3:30pm CET, has achieved “the best possible balance” and the ambitious, powerful and balanced text, would allow each delegation to “go back home with their head held high”.

In the adoption draft released at 1.30pm, human rights is back to the draft, after indigenous people’s rights, gender equality and human rights phased out from the last two draft agreements in succession; “greenhouse gas neutralization”, which was put into the last draft released yesterday, has now taken out from the adoption draft; loss and damage written into the text; five-year review of INDC agreed and USD 100 billion annual financial transfer as bottom line written into the draft.

“Most thing we thought would be weaken are actually strengthened”, said Michael Jacobs, senior advisor to the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate from New Climate Economy.

At beginning of Saturday, various parities have shown optimism to reach the final agreement within today. Few hours before the plenary, Least Developed Countries (LCDs) Group released an announcement, indicating “loss and damage” as well as 1.5℃ goal included in the Paris Agreement, which further strengthened the expectation for a successful agreement.

In the following press conferences from civil society, the optimism continues to expand. In terms of finance, Monica Araya, executive director of Nivela and a former negotiator, says the new draft can be considered as “a quite strong financial package”.

“It shows extraordinary progress on finance. Many message in Article 9 are unimaginable in the past when I was a negotiator”, says Monica Araya.

But for those working on the civil society, the financial text is still lacking strength. Kumi Naidoo from Greenpeace criticizes the text only offer a vague promise for those living in the most vulnerable and poorest communities.

“Adaptation and mitigation are most disappointment. We should keep listening to the voices of the most vulnerables”, says Tim Core from Oxfam.

A significant change in the text is that “loss and damage” has been written into the draft. It’s the first time ever that the term is put into international climate treaty. However, it comes with the tradeoff that no liability or compensation is included.

Another progress comes in human rights, which was previously phased out from the two earlier draft agreements in succession, leading to complains and protests by human rights activists. However, human rights stays in principles but not in the operative section. 

"It's a disapointment and it's a failure", says Frank Ettawageshik, a representative from indigenous peoples, after reading the draft. 

Many observation organizations have agreed that the draft has sent out a strong and clear message that the era of fossil fuel has come to an end. Governments, citizens, investors, enterprises should come together to rapid up the process towards net zero emission.

Scientists who highly criticized the earlier draft on Friday now say they are welcome with the new text since it’s once again “in line with the scientific evidence”.

IPCC has formerly concluded that to reach 1.5°C target we need to cut down emission to 70-95% by 2050 and 40-70% if aiming for 2°C. However, UNEP's recent assessment on global emission gap says all INDCs add up together are not enough to bend the curve to ensure a safe future.

Myles Allen from University of Oxford says governments understand the scientific fact and we need to cut down the emissions to zero to keep us safe.

The final plenary was issued to resume at 3.30pm CET on December 12 after a lunch break, but it was postponed two hours.