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February 23, 2019

Highlights of the new climate draft deal out as talks close

A boy carries water in Ukambani. global warming will make droughts more frequent.
A boy carries water in Ukambani. global warming will make droughts more frequent.

A slimmer draft text has been proposed at global climate talks, but it leaves major issues unresolved, including finance for developing nations like Kenya.

The new text is 29 pages, against last week’s 43.

Almost 200 nations are meeting in Paris, seeking a turning point away from an increasing reliance on fossil fuels since the Industrial Revolution. The meeting is due to finish today, but could run longer.

Following are details of the new draft:

On finance, developed nations promised in 2009 to mobilise $100 billion a year by 2020 from both public and private sources to help developing nations limit their greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to more floods, heat waves and rising sea levels.

The new text retains a split between poor and rich. One option favoured by developing nations says “financial resources shall be scaled up from a floor of $100 billion per year” beyond 2020. Another option, which is favored by rich nations, is vaguer and says countries should “enhance the scale and effectiveness of climate finance”.

Longterm goal. The text includes options of holding temperature rises below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times, “well below 2C” or “below 1.5” (2.7F), the goal supported by more than 100 developing nations. Global average surface temperatures have already risen by about 1.0C.

Options include cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases to net zero after the middle of the 21st century, or by the end. Another option is that countries would set no clear deadline.

China and India, heavily dependent on coal, are among those reluctant to set clear dates for giving up fossil fuels they see as vital to lift millions from poverty. Loss and damage. Developing nations want a long-term mechanism to help them cope with loss and damage from disasters such as typhoons or the impacts of a creeping rise of sea level rise.

All governments set up a loss and damage mechanism in 2013, but it has so far done little. The draft agreement would extend the mechanism, a sign of progress for the demands of developing nations.

Raising ambition. The United Nations says promises by 186 nations to curb greenhouse gas emissions beyond 2020, already made, are too weak to limit rising temperatures to an agreed 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times.

That means there will have to be a system to ratchet up action, but it is poorly defined.

The draft suggest that countries should take stock of efforts in 2018 or 2019, and then follow up with a more formal stocktake in 2023 or 2024 to guide countries in updating their pledges, and then every five years thereafter. Carbon markets. The draft contains no explicit mention of carbon markets, nor of the possibility of carbon penalties for aviation and shipping. It does, however, include a reference to “use of internationally transferred mitigation outcomes”, which carbon experts say can be read as markets.

Differentiation. Developing nations say that rich nations, as defined in a 1992 Convention, should continue to take the lead in cutting emissions and providing finance. Developed nations argue that many of these countries, such as Singapore and South Korea, have since become wealthy and should do more.

Legal force. All nations agreed in 2011 that the Paris deal will have some form of “legal force”. The draft leaves the issue unresolved, saying in line with previous texts that it will be either a “protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force”.





1. What is the problem?

The world is getting warmer

The average temperature of the earth’s surface has increased by about 0.85°C in the last 100 years. Thirteen of the 14 warmest years were recorded in the 21st Century, with 2015 on course to set another record.


2. Why is this happening?

Greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide.

Scientists believe that Human activities such as burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas are increasing the amount of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas responsible for global warming. Carbon-absorbing forests are also being cut down. Since 1900, sea levels have risen by on average about 19cm globally. The rate of sea-level rise has accelerated in recent decades, placing a number of islands and low-lying countries at risk.


4. What does the future hold?

The scale of potential impacts is uncertain, but it will lead to higher temperatures and more extreme weather. The changes could drive shortages in freshwater, bring about major changes in food production conditions and cause a rise in the number of casualties from floods, storms, heat waves and droughts.


6. Limiting the damage

By the end of October, 146 countries had submitted national climate plans on curbing emissions that are expected to form the cornerstone of a binding, global treaty on climate change.

Scientists have determined that if temperature rises surpass 2°C, this will lead to substantial and dangerous climate impacts, which will hit the world’s poor in particular.

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