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48 Hours Left, Paris Draft Is Looking Better, Not Great

Dominique Faget / Getty

It’s crunch time for a climate agreement, and negotiators in Paris are preparing to work through the night to hammer out remaining differences before the conference officially ends on Friday. The draft text released Wednesday stands at a more readable 29 pages, down from the previous draft’s 43 pages. And yet, even though disagreements in the text were pared down about 75 percent since Saturday, the whole agreement is still up for debate—the first word all the way to the last technically appears in brackets.

The remaining issues center around what kind of long-term target the world settles on, and whether that includes a stricter goal of a 1.5-degree ceiling on warming. Finance, as well as loss and damage (how developed countries will assist vulnerable ones harmed by climate change), remain two of the sections with the most work to be done.

Paris has at least gotten this far. At the last major conference in Copenhagen, things by this point had “completely broken down,” says Michael Jacobs of the New Climate Economy project. “The text is cleaner than I thought it would be at this stage, and the mood is incomparably better than Copenhagen. But the issues that are clean in the text are the low hanging fruits, those that are not are higher up the tree.”

Here’s our progress report on COP21. Blue bars indicate progress toward the goals, compared to yesterday, red bars indicate backward momentum, and gray bars indicate no change:

Progress Report   December 9, 2015

Commit to cut carbon emissions significantly by 2030.

A COP21 agreement might actually strengthen the world’s resolve to keep warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius. Except, the world is already at 1 degree of warming above pre-industrial averages, so either 1.5 or 2 degrees is a tall order. Getting below that depends heavily on nations outperforming their goals for the next 15 years, and the agreement doesn’t do much policy-wise to set ambitions that high.

Establish reporting and transparency requirements.

The transparency section notably doesn’t have many brackets left in it, indicating greater agreement on this, compared to other areas of the text. However, it still includes a few different options for how to create a transparent framework, particularly on how it builds in flexibility for developing nations.

Create a payment system to finance climate adaptation.

Secretary of State John Kerry made a major announcement on Wednesday, doubling the amount of of U.S. funding for climate adaptation for developing nations to $800 million—though that might not be enough to placate nations like India who’ve demanded more aid in order to agree to other ambitious sections of the accord.

Put past disagreements aside.

A new coalition of more than 100 countries has formed, out of the 195 nations present at Paris. Called the “high ambition coalition,” it shows that there is broad consensus on at least one matter—79 African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries, as well as the U.S. and European countries, want an ambitious agreement. It doesn’t include China and India, however. Those differences are still reflected in the draft text.

Agree to return to the negotiating table regularly.

After disappearing from the text on Saturday, the new draft once again includes a 5-year review cycle that invites countries to “confirm or update” by roughly 2020 their climate goals. If countries are encouraged to review their current goals again by 2020, then they may find they can do more than originally promised before 2030.

Rethink the 2-degree target.

The emerging consensus is that COP21 could reaffirm the goal to hold global warming to under 2 degrees but also include an acknowledgement that warming over 1.5 degrees will be devastating to some parts of the world. In a press conference Wednesday, U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern said that “we need a recognition of 1.5 in the agreement” in the text.

Here’s a roundup of the biggest news from around the conference:

  • Jonathan M. Katz, reporting from Paris, explains how the rich are working to stay rich. (New Republic)
  • The latest draft agreement is down to 29 pages, and negotiators have done away with about 75 percent of bracketed disagreements, but questions remain over finance and the text’s ambition. (New Republic)
  • Andrew Freedman provides a helpful annotated version of the latest draft. Toggle between the biggest topics on the right. (Mashable)
  • President Obama has been working the phones to secure a successful deal. (New York Times)
  • It’s too soon to say whether we’ve reached peak emissions. (New Republic)
  • John Kerry said in a speech at the conference that the U.S. accepts responsibility for contributing to climate change, and would double its adaptation pledge to $800 million. (New Republic)
  • Kerry sees progress in working with developing nations, but the U.S. is still resistant to accepting legal liability for “loss and damage.” (E&E Publishing)
  • The negotiations have not considered keeping fossil fuels in the ground, but focusing on extraction as well as emissions would make for a more ambitious agreement. (Grist)
  • Obama has recognized that keeping fossil fuels in the ground will help slow climate change, and recently postponed the auction of oil and gas leases. But only until the spring. (CityLab)
  • Permafrost—frozen soil that leaks methane and CO2 as it thaws—could throw a wrench in the climate talks and current carbon budgets. (Washington Post)
  • The Russians have promised not to spoil a Paris agreement, but that could depend on whether negotiators give them the proper attention at the conference. (E&E Publishing)
  • A “high ambition coalition” of over 100 countries has emerged as a strong player at the conference, pushing for a legally binding deal that requires nations to reassess goals every five years. (The Guardian)

Read our previous progress reports:

Monday, November 30

Tuesday, December 1

Wednesday, December 2

Thursday, December 3

Friday, December 4

Monday, December 7

Tuesday, December 8