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Roadblocks remain as COP 21 talks enter final stretch

Thomas Samson, AFP | UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said of the negotiations that 'there is a rising tide for a strong, universal agreement'.

The final week of COP 21 climate negotiations got under way on Monday, with a few remaining issues casting doubt on the ability to reach a historic, global deal in the French capital.

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The excitement and applause generated by the presentation of a draft agreement on Saturday gave way to cautious optimisim on Monday as negotiating teams went back to work at Le Bourget convention centre just north of Paris.

"Outside these negotiating halls, there is a rising tide for a strong, universal agreement," UN chief Ban Ki-Moon told foreign ministers from around the world who must now agree on a final and - many hope - detailed text. "The world is expecting more from you than half-measures and incremental approaches," Ban added.

It was a sentiment that was echoed by Nicolas Hulot, one of France's leading environmental activists who, as French President François Hollande's special envoy for the environment since 2012, has played a leading role in organising the COP 21 gathering.

"Nothing is certain yet, but the best outcome is still possible," Hulot said.

Hulot and other observers noted on Monday that continued resistance by the world's top polluters and fossil-fuel producers to accept a transformative agreement was reflected in some of the draft's weak language.

For example, it appeared there was a concerted effort to keep the word "decarbonisation", or the idea that the world must stop burning fossil fuels altogether by mid-century, from the final document. Instead, some parties have suggested using the words "low-carbon" or "climate neutrality," according to activists.

The words "renewable energy" were also conspicuously absent from the entire 48-page draft.

"Ratcheting-up" commitments

Addressing the main complications that could deliver a stillborn climate deal on December 11, environmental groups drew attention on the need to agree on a binding "ratchet-up mechanism" that is so far missing.

In other words, organisers and NGOs want the final deal to include regular deadlines for governments to review and strengthen their individual commitments to lower CO2 emissions in the short term.

The sum of all the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) submitted by countries before the talks puts the world on a pathway in which global temperatures would increase by 2.7°C by 2100. That is above the 2°C target that was one of the goals of the conference, and above the 1.5°C target some scientists claim humanity should really be pursuing.

If the COP 21 deal fails to reach the 2°C target, it should at least establish a schedule for governments to quickly improve or "ratchet-up" their INDCs, environmentalists said.

Mohammed Adow of the Chrisitan Aid organisation lamented that Article 10 of the current draft only made a mention of "stocktaking" of the global situation in the year 2024, with no clear obligation to submit new INDCs before that date.

"A new set of INDCs for all countries needs to be reviewed and ratcheted-up before 2020," Adow told FRANCE 24. "If not, we will clearly be on the path toward a 3°C rise in temperatures and toward climate chaos."

A 'convincing' financial package

The other main roadblock to a successful agreement in Paris is the establishment of a financial package to help poor countries deal with the harmful effects of climate change and transition over to renewable energy sources before 2020, but also after that date.

The draft document recognises the need for developed countries to contribute funds to help emerging countries better prepare for natural disasters and switch to renewables. It has also accepted the idea of compensation for poor countries for "losses and damages".

African countries have asked for 32 billion dollars per year for adaptation projects by 2020.

However, developed countries have balked at putting an exact number on how much money will go to help poor countries. To complicate things further, developed countries have asked emerging ones to also commit money to a global fund.

Oxfam's Celine Charveriat said all countries and their negotiators understood that emerging countries would at some point be called upon to make financial contributions based on possibilities, but that demanding cash commitments from them this week amounted to "holding negotiations hostage".

"We have 24-hours left to get a convincing finance package on the table," Charveriat told a press conference on Monday morning. "We know what happens when something this central to the negotiations is left for the last day."

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