Negotiators Bullish on Paris Climate Deal

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By Dean Scott

July 15 — Nearly two dozen environment ministers and climate negotiators said July 15 that they are becoming increasingly optimistic a global climate deal can be reached at end-of-year talks in Paris.

“I believe governments are more serious than ever about tackling this issue, and we have the makings of a good deal in Paris,” Valli Moosa, former environment minister for South Africa, told reporters on a press call.

There is mounting support for an international deal under which more than 190 nations pledge to “develop their own long-term decarbonization pathways,” Moosa said. Negotiators hope to conclude the Paris talks with an international agreement that for the first time would require actions by developed and developing nations alike and would enter into force in 2020.

The agreement would ensure “all countries are contributing their fair share to the global effort,” according to Moosa, who co-chaired the Toward 2015 forum, an informal series of meetings convened over the last year by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions between current and former ministers and negotiators.

There also was support from the group for a climate accord that would hold “countries accountable for their promises,” Moosa said, and that includes a mechanism to ratchet up ambition over time without a complete reworking of the agreement.

Negotiators Met Under Toward 2015 Forum 

The negotiators meeting under the Toward 2015 forum included current negotiators Gao Feng, China's special representative for climate change negotiations; Trigg Talley, U.S. deputy special envoy for climate change; Pete Betts, the U.K.'s international climate change director; and Raphael Azeredo, Brazil's director of environment and special affairs.

Other likely components of the Paris deal, according to Moosa and the forum's co-chair, Norway's former chief climate negotiator Harald Dovland, include a pledge to reaffirm the goal of keeping global temperatures from increasing more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels. The two co-chairs released a report July 15, titled “Vision for Paris: Building an Effective Climate Agreement.”

The deal should also explicitly “acknowledge” that keeping temperatures from rising beyond that threshold “requires the progressive decarbonization of the global economy” this century, Moosa said.

‘Decarbonization Strategies' Emphasized 

The co-chairs' report said the international agreement should explicitly encourage developed and developing nations “to begin mapping out their long-term decarbonization strategies.”

The deal also should provide a detailed “long-term vision for adaptation” to climate impacts and set a goal—what the report calls “a collective aim”—of integrating adaptation into the broader global push for more sustainable development, according to the report.

Negotiators in Paris should explicitly pledge to reduce “climate vulnerability” particularly for low-lying developing nations already being affected by rising sea level, more and other effects and to strengthen resilience to those impacts, the report said.

Those climate impacts aren't just being felt in developing nations. Last year was the 18th consecutive year of above-average temperatures for the U.S., the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported in January, in a report which counted eight severe weather disasters in 2014, each of which caused at least $1 billion in damages.

Reid Criticizes Republicans on Science Link 

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) broached the issue of severe weather and climate vulnerability July 15 when he took aim at Senate Republicans for disputing science linking human activity to climate change.

“It is too bad that my Republican colleagues have denied climate change,” the minority leader said.

“We have to do something, and we have to do something very soon,” he said.

“The issue before our entire country is that we have storms like this appearing from nowhere, storms that we've never had before,” Reid said. “I don't know the history of Kentucky, but I watched and have been briefed on what's going on around the rest of the nation, and these storms are coming all the time.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Dean Scott in Washington at dscott@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com