Draft climate deal sets strong targets, but questions remain before agreement reached

Alok Jha

Former Science Correspondent

The speech from Laurent Fabius this afternoon was an impassioned plea to make history. From it, we can make some educated guesses about the text of the Paris agreement but, until the draft itself comes out in an hour, we have to treat any analysis with caution.

The target to keep emissions "well below" 2ºC by 2100 still seems as though it will be in the final text, as well as the "pursuit" to get to 1.5ºC. That's a strong target, probably unthinkable by all but the most optimistic campaigners before Paris.

We also seem to have a form of ratcheting, in which nations would need to review and revise their promises to cut greenhouse gas emissions every few years. That is important because it was a point of contention for some poorer countries which were worried that this requirement might be an inadvertent brake on their economic growth.

And the £65 billion per year fund on offer from rich to poor countries (to help adapt to climate change and invest in clean energy technology) has now been set as a floor. Poor countries say they'll need to spend trillions of pounds to adapt and secure their future and argue the rich need to do more to help.

Questions remain: when the text is next debated by the whole COP21 later today, which countries will make last-minute demands for concessions? That could drag things on hugely because the deal has to be passed unanimously, under United Nations protocols.

The deal is not done until the whole deal is done, as the negotiators and delegates at COP21 have been saying.

Another question is how many signatories are needed to enact the deal - it could be when 55 countries, representing 55% to 70% of emissions, sign up. Or the COP21 could go for a different formula.

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon spoke after Mr Fabius. He said: "The end is in sight, let us now finish the job. The whole world is watching. Billions of people are relying on your wisdom. The time has come to acknowledge that national interests are best served by acting in the global interest."

We can assess all that once the latest (final?) draft text is made public. The French have asked everyone to go have lunch and then they will publish the text by 1.30pm CET on Saturday.

The Aletsch Glacier in Switzerland, one of Europe's biggest glaciers, is threatened by climate change. Credit: Reuters