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Striding Toward A Climate Deal

International Negotiations: Draft agreement narrows focus of talks on key details

by Steven K. Gibb
July 30, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 31

Credit: Shutterstock

Negotiators are working to finish a global climate change accord by December.
Workers building the A photo of a bunch of flags.
Credit: Shutterstock

Negotiators are working to finish a global climate change accord by December.

A recently unveiled draft of a new global climate change treaty is bringing the long-sought pact a step closer to completion. United Nations negotiations on the accord are scheduled to conclude this December at a meeting in Paris.

The centerpiece of the draft, which was released in late July, is promises by virtually every country in the world to control greenhouse gas emissions. The goal is to restrain average global warming to 2 °C above preindustrial levels by 2100.

Prepared by the cochairs of the UN talks, the draft reduces the number of thorny details that governments must resolve if they are to finish the deal by December. But some still remain. For example, negotiators have yet to determine how to provide financial support to poorer countries for adaptation to climate change effects such as sea-level rise. Cochairs Daniel Reifsnyder of the U.S. and Ahmed Djoghlaf of Algeria based their draft on the results of climate talks that have taken place in recent years.

The cochairs “have created a clear structure for parties to negotiate more efficiently and effectively,” explains Jennifer Morgan, global director for climate with the World Resources Institute, a think tank.

In the draft, individual countries will set emissions control targets and deadlines for themselves. Governments are in the process of sharing their national plans with negotiators in preparation for the Paris meeting.

As part of that effort, President Barack Obama in March pledged that the U.S. will cut its emissions 26–28% by 2025. The White House says this can be done through regulations already in place and a new EPA rule, expected to be finalized soon, to cut carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Conservative Republican senators are attacking Obama’s goal as unattainable—and are asking the President for documentation about how his plan would work.

By casting doubts on Obama’s plan, the senators may raise doubts among their fellow lawmakers—as well as in foreign capitals—about whether the U.S. can live up to Obama’s commitment.



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