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Will the Paris Climate Agreement Save the World?

Alain Jocard / Getty

The Paris conference is in its final hours. France pushed the deadline for a new—potentially final—draft text to Saturday morning, and if all goes well, countries could adopt it later in the day. Jonathan M. Katz, reporting for the New Republic in Paris, breaks down who wants what in the final deal.

The absence of a final agreement hasn’t stopped everyone from rehearsing their messaging around a deal. The U.S. is no doubt prepared to take a victory lap, PR firms have been on call, and environmentalists are already prepared to “denounce” the expected agreement.

The draft released Thursday was a considerable improvement from earlier this week, except on the usual sticking points: differentiation, loss and damage, and financing. Once the deal is finalized, we’ll sort through the good, the bad, and the empty promises for a final report on whether Paris actually delivers progress on climate change.

Until then, 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 11, 2015

Commit to cut carbon emissions significantly by 2030.

One big source of greenhouse gas emissions won’t even be mentioned in the Paris deal, and that’s aviation and shipping emissions accounting for over 4 percent of the global total. The international climate debate has virtually ignored these sources’ rising toll for decades.

Establish reporting and transparency requirements.

The best-case scenario is creating a “single framework and hold every country to a high bar” on transparency, especially for developing countries, Environmental Defense Fund Vice President of Global Climate Nathaniel Keohane told the New Republic. We’ll watch how the final agreement answers Keohane’s question: “Given that we want to hold all countries to a high bar and they start in different places, how do we raise them up to meet that bar?”

Create a payment system to finance climate adaptation.

The pledges nations have made on finance sound a lot bigger than they really are. “Developed countries inflate the figure; they count everything they can find,” Romain Weikmans, a researcher at Brown University’s Climate and Development Lab, told the AP. “It’s really a process of lying the more you can.” Indian environment minister Prakash Javadekar insists the finance that’s actually on the table is “absolutely dismal.”

Put past disagreements aside.

Brazil has joined the “high ambition coalition” of 100 developed and developing countries. Traditionally, Brazil has been allied with a group of emerging nations—including China, India, and South Africa—that remain wary of an agreement limiting developing nations. But shifting alliance could help put pressure particularly on India to overcome its objections. “If you want to tackle climate change you need ambition and political will,” Brazilian environment minister Izabella Teixeira said in a statement.

Agree to return to the negotiating table regularly.

Countries have made a lot of progress on five-year reviews, per Thursday’s draft. The first time countries will be encouraged to come back to the table would occur before the agreement takes force, in 2019. Then in 2023, the first formal five-year review would begin, which “shall guide and inform” countries in “updating and enhancing” their climate pledges.

Rethink the 2-degree target.

The latest draft has some interesting developments on setting new long-term goals, urging that countries reach peak emissions “as soon as possible” and allowing greater flexibility for developing nations to reach “emissions neutrality in the second half of the century.” But those goals don’t support another ambition outlined in the text to limit warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial averages.

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

  • Jonathan M. Katz, reporting from Paris, ponders whether international aid can work for climate change, especially when countries want accountability for everyone but themselves. (New Republic)
  • The final agreement could be ambitious, but if it doesn’t include specific policies and mechanisms to create and measure progress, it will also be meaningless. (New Republic)
  • Scientists say to reach the agreement’s ambitious warming targets, emissions need to be cut deeply and rapidly from 2020 onwards. (Washington Post)
  • As talks have continued, couches at Le Bourget have steadily become more occupied with negotiators and reporters working through the night. (New Republic)
  • A graphic on sea level rise in Chinese cities if warming reaches 2 degrees. (New York Times)
  • Though the final text has not yet been released, environmental activists are gearing up to denounce the agreement. (New Republic)
  • To protect their economies, India and Saudi Arabia want to block references in the agreement to a UN study, which found that a 1.5 degree warming limit would be safer for millions in vulnerable countries. (Climate Change News)
  • Global PR firms won’t grant interview requests, but they are coordinating images for the countries who have hired them. (Reuters)
  • The draft agreement is close to including what a successful agreement needs: a signal to investors that they must remove money in fossil fuels. (New York Times)
  • There’s a fan site for French foreign minister Laurent Fabius, because “Fabius u is Fab.” (Tumblr)

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

Thursday, December 10