COP21: Paris talks take giant leap forward with final draft text

"I think, dear friends, that we will make it," proclaimed a jubilant COP21 President Laurent Fabius as he unveiled the final draft text of a global climate agreement on a frantic night of negotiations in Paris.

After an agonising six-hour delay, the COP21 climate change conference in Paris has taken a giant leap forward, with the production of a final draft text that contains fewer bracketed text – indicating disagreements – and stricter global warming limits than its predecessors. 

(Scroll down for full COP21 draft agreement)

Marathon overnight talks which continued until 7am this morning have produced a 27-page document – two pages shorter than the text produced yesterday (9 December) – which contains just 50 brackets, down from 361.

Fabius predicted that the talks were now likely to overrun into the weekend. He said: “I will not present the text Friday evening, as I had thought, but Saturday morning. There is still work to do. Things are going in the right direction.”

Upon the release of the latest draft, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, said this draft text “points towards an ambitious agreement”. 

Temperature targets

On the crucial issue of temperature increase targets (page 2), the text emphasises the need to hold the increase in the global average temperature to “well below 2 °C above preindustrial levels” and pursuing efforts “to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C”, recognizing that “this would significantly reduce risks and impacts of climate change”.

The text then invites the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to provide a technical paper in 2018 on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 degrees. Parties will then reconvene in 2019, “to take stock of the collective efforts”.

However, negotiators appear to have opted for weakened language around a long-term goal for phasing out fossil fuels.

Yesterday’s text had options for specific dates for carbon cuts, and specific percentages for how much emissions should be cut. By contrast, today’s text only has language about “cutting emissions as fast as possible”, with no timescale or numbers.

Giving a snap verdict on this part of the text, green group tweeted: “The latest draft text has a lot of aspirational language, the real test will be what it means on the ground.” 

Differentiation, loss & damage

On the key issue of ‘differentiation’ (page 17) – which refers to the different roles and responsibilities of developed and developing nations in addressing climate change – the draft text recognises that a peaking of greenhouse gas emissions “will take longer in developing countries”. 

It states that developed countries “should continue to take the lead” on tackling limate change, and that “support shall be provided to developing countries”, acknowledging that “enhanced support for developing countries… will allow for higher ambition in their actions.”

On the issue of ‘loss and damage’ (page 5) – which essentially considers the compensation for nations dealing with climate impacts – the document states: “Parties shall enhance action and support, on a cooperative and facilitative basis, for addressing loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, and in a manner that does not involve or provide a basis for liability or compensation nor prejudice existing rights under international law.”

Despite this demonstrating some progress on what has been a key sticking point of the talks, ActionAid – a South Africa-based development NGO – is not impressed. Chief executive Adriano Campolina said: “In the closing hours of the Paris talks, we have been presented with a draft deal that denies the world justice.

“By including a clause for no future claim of compensation and liability, the US has ensured people suffering from the disastrous impacts of climate change will never be able to seek the justice owed to them.”

One other notable exclusion from this draft text – as with the previous draft text – is any mention of the shipping and aviation industries – responsible for around 5% of global emissions but growing rapidly – making it unlikely that they will reappear in the real deal.

The real deal

This final draft was originally scheduled to be released at 2pm GMT, but was pushed back to 6pm, and then to 8pm, leading observers to speculate that negotiators had “hit a brick wall”.

Fabius will hope this latest draft is better received than Wednesday’s version which prompted campaigners to stage a sit-in last night inside the conference venue.

Friends of the Earth, who organised the protest, warned that Governments must not settle for the draft agreement, which showed “no progress on crucial issues, including ambition, differentiation, equity, finance, loss and damage.”

Susann Scherbarth, a climate justice and energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said: “The deal is going in a dirty direction. The EU came to Paris for a fair, ambitious deal but there is a real risk that it’s going to be responsible for an unfair, unjust outcome.

“With critical issues on finance, human rights, and support for the most vulnerable still to be fought over, the EU must step up and do its fair share so that the Paris deal doesn’t turn into a raw deal for the poorest.”

The EU revealed earlier this week that it was part of the ‘high-ambition coalition‘ of over 100 countries including the United States, Mexico and who are said to be pushing for the most extensive deal. However, Scherbarth warned that the EU “could not hide behind coalitions”.

Much of the buzz at COP21 is being generated by the US delegation who, on Wednesday, doubled their contribution to the climate mitigation fund to $860m, then laid out its backing for a 1.5 degree warming target.


Fabius has now proposed two and a half hours for COP21 delegates to study this final draft text, before commencing the final day of negotiations at 11.30pm this evening.

COP21 final draft text: The reaction

Jennifer Morgan, global director, the World Resource Institute’s Climate Program

“While negotiations of the past usually get bogged down in the final stretch, the stakes here are too high. At this critical summit, the negotiations must be exceptional. The big question is which leaders are going to step forward to grasp this moment and make the agreement both fair and ambitious? Ten days ago leaders came to Paris calling for a strong climate agreement. Now those leaders need to start picking up the phone and work together to turn those words into action.”

Michael Jacobs, senior adviser, New Climate Economy

“This is a strong and carefully balanced text, but the negotiations have not finished and there are still some important issues unresolved. There is a lot of work left to do.”

Nigel Topping, chief executive, We Mean Business 

“Business thanks the French Presidency for its continued leadership of COP21. We ask you to stay strong in finalizing an ambitious climate agreement, which will send a catalytic signal to the real economy. We urge you to fulfill your promise to “leave nothing behind” – including the long-term goal and the five-year ambition mechanism, starting from 2020 onwards.”

Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, climate change lead, World Health Organisation

“Every tonne of carbon that we put into the atmosphere turns up the planet’s thermostat, and increases risks to health. The actions that we need to take to reduce climate change would also help clean up our air and our water, and save lives. To take a medical analogy: We already have good treatments available for climate change, but we are late in starting the course. We hope that in Paris we can agree on the prescription as soon as possible.”

Celine Herweijer, partner, PwC sustainability & climate change

“The text is strengthening. The deal now clearly calls for warming well below 2C, and effort to limit it to 1.5C. This is a bold step change in ambition and sets the tone for the scale of the low carbon transition needed. Finance has also progressed with $100bn a year now as a floor for finance raising. The hope might be that this would create the ripple effect needed to unlock agreement on the remaining contentious areas including differentiation, loss and damage and compliance. It’s game on, but key areas like finance that look to have progressed could still change when parties reconvene tonight.”

Richard Black, director, Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU)

“The new text has taken countries much, much closer towards a final agreement, with a lot of compromises. Everyone’s getting some things they want and some things they don’t – but overall, governments are moving towards a deal that will significantly reduce the risks of climate change.”

Mohamed Adow, senior climate advisor, Christian Aid

“This penultimate text shows we are on the verge of our first truly global climate deal. This draft represents good progress and we are within touching distance of the summit.” 

Stay tuned to edie for full coverage and analysis of the final COP21 agreement.

Brad Allen and Luke Nicholls

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