Countries told to end climate blame game ahead of key Paris talks

Optimism ahead of make-or-break talks in Paris after pledges from China and US, but negotiator says success requires 'new logic' to discussions

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 November, 2014, 5:18am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 November, 2014, 6:19pm

Major countries have been told to stop finger-pointing over climate change and get down to real negotiations at global talks to be held in Paris next year.

That is the only way to avoid the disappointment of the last round of talks in Copenhagen in 2009 - which promised much and achieved little - says the chief French negotiator for next year's round.

"The challenge ahead is for us to abandon the existing negotiation mode that fingers are pointed at each other over who has not honoured a pledge or failed to make a pledge," Laurence Tubiana said in Paris this week.

"We need to change the logic of negotiation."

The French ambassador to the climate summit also called on developed nations to contribute as much as possible to reducing emissions.

At the Copenhagen summit, talks broke down into fights among different blocs. It ended with nothing but a vague and non-binding accord that was merely "noted" by the parties.

But optimism is building ahead of the Paris talks, especially after China and the United States jointly announced last month a set of goals to reduce emissions.

China agreed to peak its emissions by 2030 while the US said it would cut emissions by 26 per cent around the same time.

The pledges by the world's two largest economies have raised hope for a global binding agreement in Paris.

Other countries are yet to announce their targets. India - China's rival as a major developing economy - is expected to do so in the second half of next year.

Tubiana said the 15-day Paris talks aimed to reach a new legally binding agreement lasting until 2050 among parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Countries would also need to find ways to finance the investment necessary to create a world with low or zero carbon emissions.

The French ambassador saw two key challenges.

One, she said, was the difficulty of balancing economic development and the need to keep global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level. Another was how to reduce emissions by half by 2050 - a target that scientists said was essential in the transition to a zero-carbon economy.

France itself has pledged and passed laws to cut emissions by up to 90 per cent by 2050 from the 1990 level and reduce energy intensity by half. But Tubiana said pledges made at national level might be inadequate to ensure the 2 degrees Celsius target was met and therefore "some regions or even corporates" might need to be mobilised to go for zero emissions.

Nicholas Hulot, an environment adviser to French President Francois Hollande, said the world could not afford a failed deal in Paris next year.

He hoped that upcoming climate talks in Lima, Peru, could pave the way for a final deal in Paris and that there would be no more mistrust and suspicion among the parties.

"A failed deal means the situations will be irreversible and unpredictable," Hulot said.

"There will be millions of victims and tens of thousands will be displaced by climate change," he said.

A failed deal would also mean an end to the multilateral negotiation process, he said, and there was little certainty as to what could replace that mechanism.

A popular host of a television documentary series on the environment, Hulot said there was a need to mobilise all sectors or face climate challenges.

He said the European Union was willing to consider a bigger cut in emissions - on top of its existing pledge of a 40 per cent reduction from 1990 levels by 2030 - if the Paris talks yielded a deal.