Delegates at the UN climate conference in Paris, aka COP21, have approved a draft text that they hope will form the basis of an agreement to curb global carbon emissions.
The document was circulated on 7 December for discussion by ministers, who will try to arrive at a comprehensive settlement by 18 December. The draft was arrived at on 4 December after an all-night sitting by delegates from 195 countries at the conference centre in Le Bourget, to meet a deadline imposed by the French presidency.
Each attending country’s ministers will now have to take the many political decisions still required, if the text is to be turned into a long-term agreement. However the French climate ambassador Laurence Tubiana warned that major political differences still needed to be resolved. "This text marks the will of all to reach an agreement. We are not at the end of the route. Major political issues are yet to be resolved."
The document lays out a range of options on what the long-term goal of the agreement should be, as well as the scale and the methods of raising climate finance for poorer nations. Among the contentious issues they will have to deal with is what is known as ‘differentiation’ – the distinction among developing and developed nations, the richer and the poorer, in terms of targets and responsibilities. Many countries are reluctant to change the way that nations are divided into developed and developing, based on where they were in 1992, when the UN Convention was signed.
Some of the richer countries want this to change, and expect a larger number of emerging economies to take on emissions reduction targets and become climate finance providers.
"We now need to summon the political will needed to make the hard decisions required for an effective and durable agreement that protects the most vulnerable among us," said Thoriq Ibrahim of the Maldives and chairman of the Alliance of Small Island States.
But there are still reservations about the draft among some delegates, in particular that too much has been left to ministers to agree, that too many options have been left open and that in an effort to reach an agreement, too many compromises will be made. "We’re hoping that in the rush to the end, ministers do not trade ambition for expediency, and remain true to the science," commented Tasneem Essop from World Wildlife Fund.

Changes to the first draft
The general purpose of the first draft of the agreement is largely unchanged, but some important issues have yet to be decided, for example which of the two benchmark temperature increase options, 1.5 or 2 degrees, should be accepted.
However the collective long term mitigation goal has been changed and simplified: the goal date for peaking of GHGs should be as soon as possible, but as yet no date is specified; there must be rapid reductions thereafter, of a certain % (although the figure is not yet decided) by 2050; we must aim at zero global GHG emissions by a date between 2060 and 2080; and a long term transformation into climate neutrality or decarbonisation ,ust be the ultimate aim.
There is now general agreement in principle on the issue of equitable distribution of a global carbon budget based on historical responsibilities and climate justice, which developing nations have been pushing for, as well as an acknowledgement of the balance between mitigation and food security. But the planning and regulation of mitigation contributions state by state are still undecided. And there is no reference to renewable energy or fossil fuels.