'Weak' climate accord in sight

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The Telegraph, Paris, France

The climate change talks here appear headed towards a weak but compromised accord amid critical differences between countries over the responsibility of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and demands of finance and technology.

As ministers from across the world began the political leg of the negotiations today, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon reminded them about the "direction" that over 150 leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had provided at the start of the talks last week.

"Never before have so many heads of state and government gathered in one place at one time with one common purpose Leaders have assured me they will work to remove any roadblocks," Ban Ki-moon said. He also urged nations to consider the global situation and not be tied to country-specific demands, in a clear message to compromise to reach an accord.

French foreign minister Laurent Fabius has appointed a series of facilitators to push forward the talks aimed at finalising an international accord to reduce the world's greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the most severe impacts of global warming.

Many ministers and negotiators are expressing optimism.

"We are very hopeful for an accord in Paris. I am getting good vibes from all sources," India's environment minister Prakash Javadekar told The Telegraph on the sidelines of the talks. The minister said that both official and unofficial meetings have been held in Paris to work towards an accord. Javadekar, however admitted that there were still differences but mentioned in a lighter vein that if everything gets sorted out in Paris, there would be nothing to discuss in future UN climate-change conferences.

He, however, said the developed countries would have to fulfil the annual $100 billion commitment from 2020. "Vada jab kiya hai, to nibhana parega (when you have committed, you have to fulfil it)," said the minister, echoing a popular Hindi song.

Britain's energy secretary and chief negotiator Amber Rudd reminded all countries they would be forced to compromise to achieve an agreement. She said she was "hopeful" of a deal but conceded that a "huge amount of work" was still required. "Compromises and some hard decisions will need to be made," she said.

Former Bangladesh environment minister Hasan Mahmud also said an accord seemed in sight, albeit a weak one. Civil society echoed his opinion. "There will be an accord but without any significant content...it will be like bare bones without muscles, "said Harjeet Singh , a climate expert with Action Aid.

Singh said none of the major issues - be it finance, emissions cut responsibility, or adaptation - have yet been sorted out. He called the promises of global leaders at the beginning of the summit as "empty rhetoric" and accused them of not sending clear enough messages to their negotiators about settling contentious issues.

Developing countries want the developed nations, the largest emitters historically, to contribute finance and technology to help the former accelerate their pace towards clean energy.