Switzerland : Almost 200 countries agreed a draft text for a deal to fight climate change on Friday, but put off hard choices about narrowing down a vast range of options for limiting a damaging rise in temperatures.
Government delegates adopted the 86-page draft as the basis for negotiations on the deal due to be agreed later this year.
But the document includes radically varying proposals for slowing climate change — one foresees a phase-out of net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, for instance, while another seeks a peak of emissions “as soon as possible”.
“Although it has become longer, countries are now fully aware of each other’s positions,” said Christiana Figueres, the head of the UN Climate Change Secretariat, referring to an earlier 38-page document which formed the basis of discussions.
Negotiators had to agree an official text in Geneva to meet a U.N. requirement that it is in place six months before a summit in Paris starting in November 2015.
Figueres said the long text would make the next negotiating session in June “a little bit more difficult.”
Delegates praised a positive mood at what are often fractious talks about sharing out the burden of curbing greenhouse gases among nations as diverse as China and the United States, OPEC states or sub-Saharan African nations.
The European Union said negotiators should have started the harder task of streamlining the text. “We have lost an opportunity for progress,” said Elina Bardram, head of the European Commission delegation, reported NDTV.
Activists said it was positive that all views were present in the draft text, even ideas such as a Bolivian demand for an International Climate Justice Tribunal for countries that fail to keep pledges for action.
“Everything in Geneva has set us up for success at Paris,” said Julie-Anne Richards of the Climate Justice Programme. She said Geneva contrasted with many U.N. sessions that can “feel like pulling teeth … painful and hard to get things done.”
Last year was the warmest on record and the UN panel of climate scientists says man-made climate change is already visible in more heat extremes, downpours and rising sea levels as ice melts from the Alps to the Andes.
“The 2015 climate negotiations are off to a promising start,” said Jennifer Morgan, head of the climate programme at the World Resources Institute think-tank. “Much hard work remains.”