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Paris climate conference 2015

UN unveils first draft agreement ahead of climate talks

Delegates from the Cook Islands at the UNFCCC Climate Change conference in Lima, 12 December 2014
Delegates from the Cook Islands at the UNFCCC Climate Change conference in Lima, 12 December 2014 REUTERS/Enrique Castro-Mendivil

The agreement on global action against climate change, due to be signed in Paris in two months time at the COP21, has reached an important stage. It was made public and presented to governments on Monday.

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The first comprehensive draft of the agreement contains the basis for negotiation of the draft Paris climate package.

In addition to the agreement, the package contains a draft of the decision that will implement the agreement in 2020 and a draft on a pre-2020 ambition.

The different bodies of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)* bodies are working hard to ensure that an international accord is signed in December.

But they have their work cut out. Several sticking points remain: for example, financing for poorer countries to help them adapt to climate change, or questions of responsability for historic emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide or methane.

These have been proven scientifically to result from human activity and to cause an increase in temperature over the planet.

The pre-amble of the draft agreement presented sounds reassuring. For instance, it expressly recognises an intrinsic relationship between climate change, poverty eradication and sustainable development. It also takes into account the particular vulnerabilities and specific needs of parties, especially the least-developed countries.

In terms of raising public awareness, where efforts currently are vast and varied, and to counter attempts at denying that the climate is changing and having devastating effects, the pre-amble states that parties' actions to respond to the urgent threat of climate change "will be based" on the best scientific knowledge available.

Getting down to details, within the 26 Articles of the draft agreement, disagreements could still arise over time-scales or the more or less binding nature of any committments to the agreement.

From the ten-page draft decision document seen Monday, the issues of mitigation - action which limits the magnitude or rate of climate change -  and capacity-building for less well-off or less well-equipped countries will, may or could require negotiation.

Momentum is building as the COP21 approaches. By the beginning of October, 146 countries, representing almost 87 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, had submitted their intended national climate action plans to the UN.

Of the member countries of the UNFCCC, all of the industrialised countries have handed in their proposals, along with 104 developing countries, which together represent about 70 percent of developing member-countries.

*196 parties are signed up to the UNFCC, the guardian of the Kyoto Protocol signed in 1997 and of those which have followed.

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