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Negotiators analyze ‘final draft’ of climate pact in Paris

French President Francois Hollande, left, French foreign minister Laurent Fabius, center, and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon applaud at the COP21, the United Nations Climate Change Conference, in Le Bourget, north of Paris, Saturday, Dec.12, 2015. Fabius says a "final" draft of a global climate pact would be legally binding. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

LE BOURGET, France (AP) – France presented negotiators from 190 nations with what it called a “final draft” of an unprecedented climate deal to slow global warming and urged them to approve it on Saturday. The deal, called the “Paris agreement,” would limit rising temperatures and sea levels, and eventually hold man-made emissions to the levels that nature can absorb.
If the pact is approved, nations would be committed to keeping the rise in global temperatures by the year 2100 compared with pre-industrial times “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) and “endeavor to limit” them even more, to 1.5 degrees Celsius. That was a key demand of poor countries ravaged by the effects of climate change and rising sea levels.
They would also be committed to limiting the amount of greenhouse gas emitted by human activity to the same levels that trees, soil and oceans can absorb naturally, beginning at some point between 2050 and 2100.
Negotiators had a few hours to analyze the draft before going into a plenary meeting for possible adoption. French President Francois Hollande, who joined the meeting Saturday to add weight to the negotiations, urged them to adopt it.
“The decisive agreement for the planet is here and now,” Hollande said. “France calls upon you to adopt the first universal agreement on climate.”
The new version removed disputed concepts like “climate neutrality” or “emissions neutrality” which had appeared in earlier drafts but met opposition from countries including China. It sets a goal of getting global greenhouse gas emissions to start falling “as soon as possible”; they have been generally rising since the industrial revolution.
It says wealthy nations should continue to provide financial support for poor nations to cope with climate change but doesn’t say how much. It also includes a section on “loss and damage,” an issue pushed by small island nations and other vulnerable countries who want help to recover from climate change disasters and rising sea levels.
But the draft appears also to meet a key demand from the Obama administration that it not include language that would need approval from the Republican-led U.S. Congress requiring rich countries to pay poor countries hurt by climate change. The document specifies that it “does not involve or provide any basis for any liability or compensation” for countries that are damaged by climate change.
Activists who say the agreement won’t go far enough held protests across Paris on Saturday, calling attention to populations threatened by melting glaciers, rising seas and expanding deserts.
“This puts the fossil fuel industry on the wrong side of history,” said Kumi Naidoo of Greenpeace. He said the goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions is not enough for people on front lines of climate change. “This deal alone won’t dig us out of the hole we’re in.”
Some of the delegates had pushed for the pact to limit warming even more. Already, the world has warmed by about 1 degree Celsius since pre-industrial times, and poor low-lying nations have pushed to set a goal of limiting the rise to another half-degree on top of that.
Ben Strauss, a sea level researcher at Climate Central, said limiting warming to 1.5 degrees instead of 2 degrees could potentially cut in half the projected 280 million people whose houses will eventually be submerged by rising seas.
Still, if the 190 nations gathered in Paris agree to the accord, it would be a breakthrough. The U.N. has been working for more than two decades to persuade governments to work together to reduce the man-made emissions that scientists say are warming the planet.
This accord is the first time all countries are expected to pitch in. The previous emissions treaty, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, included only rich countries and the U.S. never signed on. The last climate summit, in Copenhagen in 2009, ended in failure when countries couldn’t agree on a binding emissions pact.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon urged delegates to adopt the draft.
“We must protect the planet that sustains us,” Ban told the negotiators. “We need all our hands on deck.”
The talks were initially scheduled to end Friday. U.N. climate conferences often run over time, because of the high stakes and widely differing demands and economic concerns of countries as diverse as the United States and tiny Pacific island nations.
More than 180 countries presented plans to cut or curb greenhouse gas emissions in the run-up to the conference. That was a major breakthrough for the climate talks, showing almost all countries were ready to be part of the new deal after years of stalemate.
But disputes arose in Paris over how to anchor those targets in a binding international pact, with China and other major developing countries insisting on different rules for rich and poor nations.
The U.S. resisted legally binding emissions targets, instead pressing for robust transparency rules to make sure countries live up to their commitments. China pushed back, saying Western proposals were too “intrusive.”

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