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Sleepless in Paris

The climate talks are coming down to the wire.

Mandel Ngan / Getty

After an exhausting day of around-the-clock negotiations, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius released a new draft text for a global climate change agreement Thursday evening in Paris. This draft stands at 27 pages and 50 brackets, and reads much more easily than the heavily bracketed, 29-page version a day ago. Of course, there are some exceptions: There’s still as much uncertainty as ever surrounding how to define differentiation, long-term ambition, and finance.

To turn this into a final agreement, the conference will reconvene with an informal model of negotiations, a South African process called an indaba, that is intended to move countries toward compromise.

“It’s time to come to an agreement,” Fabius said, emphasizing that he still hopes to deliver a final text tomorrow. “I think, dear friends, that we will make it.”

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 10, 2015

Commit to cut carbon emissions significantly by 2030.

The reliability of governments delivering on their domestic goals is everything, since Paris won’t have a legal structure for enforcing carbon cuts. The U.S.’s ability to deliver on its power plant regulations is in question, and so EPA chief Gina McCarthy is in Paris telling reporters, “It is the law, and it is going to stick.”

Establish reporting and transparency requirements.

If India gets its way, the agreement could settle on a differentiated transparency system that sets less strict expectations for developing nations. U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern may be amenable. He’s proposed “a regime where countries are encouraged to do the best that they can, but are not expected to do more than they can.”

Create a payment system to finance climate adaptation.

The U.S. has remained firm on how “loss and damage” makes it into the text, and that is stalling progress: The U.S. wants it to be clear the deal doesn’t suggest companies bear responsibility for paying for damage from climate change. According to Wednesday’s draft, an asterisk on the loss and damage section indicates COP21 still has a lot to work through.

Put past disagreements aside.

For all the last-minute scrambling so familiar to climate talks, there’s one thing that’s truly unique to Paris. “No parties have stormed out of meetings. No alternate draft agreements have been leaked. No faux pas have slipped from the lips of sleep-deprived diplomats,” observes The Christian Science Monitor.

Agree to return to the negotiating table regularly.

The good news is that a five-year timetable for all countries to return to the negotiating table seems likely to make it into the agreement. The next, more important thing to look for is when this starts—2020 is much better if we’re to avoid locking in high-emissions in the long-run.

Rethink the 2-degree target.

The new text sets a goal to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C, recognizing that this would significantly reduce risks and impacts of climate change.” It doesn’t include the word decarbonization anywhere.

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

  • Reporters have placed their bets on when the conference will end, and the pool is not optimistic about the scheduled Friday conclusion. (New Republic)
  • New Zealand and Australia make the case for a carbon market built in to the agreement, a controversial issue for some countries. (Carbon Pulse)
  • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Francois Hollande released a collaborative book that reads like an instructive on critical theory and ecotheology. (New Republic)
  • Every country signed off on the last draft text, meaning heartening progress. But contentious issues like finance are still on the decision table. (Slate)
  • Sean Paul performed at COP21 tonight. He’s just one of many random celebrities to attend the conference. (New Republic)
  • An explainer on the remaining disagreements to be resolved as negotiators work into the wee hours. (New York Times)
  • Ted Cruz goes off on the liberal plot that is global warming. (NPR)
  • UN negotiations are no stranger to acronyms, but this one may be the best—and most important—yet. (The Atlantic)

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

Wednesday, December 9