Climate Deal: Only A Little Warmer

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A new draft proposal for a climate agreement was released on Friday, but negotiators don’t seem to have made much progress in reaching consensus. US negotiators criticized the draft for not imposing emissions requirements on developing powerhouses like China and India, while delegations from nations most threatened by global warming rejected it as too weak.

This text calls for more significant cuts from industrialized nations, but lacks concrete goals for developing nations. US climate envoy Todd Stern called it “a constructive step.” But, he continued, the draft “does not in any sense call on major developing countries to set forth their own steps.” Without goals for rapidly developing countries, he said, “We do not believe that as it stands it can serve as the basis for real environmental results.”

And though the draft lacks specific direction on emission targets for China, the Chinese delegates were still apprehensive about it. “I doubt the sincerity of developed countries in their commitment,” said He Yafei, China’s vice foreign minister, at a press conference on Friday.

The draft proposes that developed nations cut emissions by 25 to 45 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. This target has received positive reviews from NGOs. But it is a far more ambitious goal than what the United States is expected to accept. The cap-and-trade bill passed by the House included a 17 percent cut below 2005 levels—which is only about 4 percent below 1990 levels. The Senate proposal and the Obama administration’s offer at the summit are also in that range. The draft also calls for limiting warming to either 1.5 or 2.0 degrees Celsius (2.7 or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

While the new text eases tensions after an earlier, weaker draft provoked outrage from poorer nations, it’s a long way from what the most vulnerable countries want.

But this latest draft is still just a road mark in the marathon process of writing a new climate agreement. Actually, it’s probably better to think of it as a relay race. This week’s talks have been conducted by negotiators; over the weekend, ministers will arrive and begin the next level of discussions. The real action won’t take place until the end of next week, when the heads of state arrive.

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