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On Tuesday, the new draft text for the Paris Climate Talks was released by the French President of COP21, Laurent Fabius. This draft, at 29 pages, has refined the 48-page version that the 195 COP nations agreed to on Saturday. That version was the result of four years of intergovernmental talks. This new draft includes options for several long-term goals regarding global warming and carbon reduction, which negotiators will have until Saturday to decide upon.

The text was released just two hours ago, but here’s what we know so far.

Sunset in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. (Photo: JackyR)

Sunset in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. (Photo: JackyR)

There Are Three Global Warming Options

How hot do you want it? The new draft gives three options for moderating global temperature increase. They are as follows:

  1. Temperatures should be kept below 2°C
  2. Temperatures should be kept well below 2°C and include efforts to limit them to below 1.5°C, with the understanding that there are high climate risks even at that level
  3. Temperatures should be kept below 1.5°C

As of now, the text seems pretty clear on the scientific projections. But it will be quite a feat if the latter two options survive the final draft.

There Are Three Emission Reduction Options

This draft has reintroduced “net zero” emissions into the language, which is ambitious, responsible and making cynical commentators scoff. There are three options for establishing a collective, long-term goal on reducing emissions:

  1. Cutting carbon emissions 40-70 percent below 2010 levels
  2. Cutting carbon emissions 70-95 percent below 2010 levels
  3. Achieving net-zero emissions by the middle or end of this century

The term “decarbonization” has also returned to the text – like many terms, however, this one remains in brackets, making it an option with the potential to be crossed out. The word is that Saudi Arabia is having issues with it. The other word is that plenty of negotiators are having issues with Saudi Arabia. More on that below.

COP21 at Le Bourget, Paris. (Photo Credit: C40)

COP21 at Le Bourget, Paris. (Photo Credit: C40)

There Are Three Options for Helping Developing Countries

The biggest issue at COP21 remains the divide between developed and developing countries. The latter are still largely reliant on dirty fuels and argue that they lack the money and infrastructure to make the clean transition in the timelines set out by the COP. The Green Climate Fund was meant to be the answer to this problem: A multi-billion dollar gift from wealthier to poorer nations devoted to easing that transition. So far, it’s nowhere near its funding target.

The new draft offers these three options:

  1. Developed nations will donate the money required by poorer nations to meet the full cost of complying with the COP21 agreement.
  2. Developing nations are “eligible for support” (not altogether clear on this one yet)
  3. Developing nations will not be required to comply with the agreement if they cannot raise enough money or support

Yeah, that third one looks pretty crappy, but the first two are pretty dependent on developed nations being willing to give away a ton of cash.

The New Alliance

Unexpected news arrived today when a coalition of more than 100 countries announced that they are pushing for an ambitious legal climate agreement. Secretly formed six months ago, this coalition is comprised of over half the countries in the world, including the United States, the EU and 79 countries from Asia, Africa and Latin America. The coalition was founded by the Marshall Islands, which are among those nations (many of them island nations) projected to suffer the worst impacts of climate change.

“It isn’t really about a single coalition working to a single set of aims, it’s about countries working out that they have a range of different things they are trying to achieve and they need to work with different partners to achieve that,” said Ruth Davis of Greenpeace.

The alliance is hoping to force COP21 to agree to a 100 percent clean energy deal. They are pressuring Brazil, China and South Africa. India seems set on keeping its coal, though. And then there’s Saudi Arabia.

Ministry of the Interior, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Photo Credit: Jon Rawlinson / Flickr)

Ministry of the Interior, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Photo Credit: Jon Rawlinson / Flickr)

Whatever It Is, They’re Against It

On Tuesday, the Guardian reported that developing nations are accusing Saudi Arabia of trying to railroad climate negotiations for the sake of its own oil. The kingdom maintains the 15th-largest economy in the world, which is almost entirely propped up by its fossil fuel resources.

“They are seeing the writing on the wall,” said Wael Hmaidan, director of Climate Action Network, the global campaign group. “The world is changing and it’s making them very nervous.”

Hmaidan added that Saudi delegates are trying to block any measures that call for an increased energy transition. They have objected to the goal of decarbonizing the world economy by 2050.

The kingdom has argued that if islands like Kiribati are going to be compensated for the effects of climate change, Saudi Arabia should be compensated for the loss of its future oil income.

I’d like to point out here that Kiribati is literally sinking into the sea. Sea level rise is such a major problem for the country that the government has already purchased land in Fiji in anticipation of moving its populace there in the next 30 years. By that point, most of Kiribati will be underwater. 

So it’s sort of the same thing as refusing to diversify your energy economy, minus the part where your entire country is literally disappearing from the face of the planet.

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