ANTALYA, TURKEY: Leaders of the world’s top economies on Monday backed a drive to curb catastrophic climate change at an upcoming UN conference in Paris, according to a statement drawn up in tough, all-night talks.
Negotiators at a Group of 20 summit in Turkey haggled into the early hours as Saudi Arabia and India initially refused to include specific goals such as limiting global warming to less than two degrees Celsius (3.6 Farenheit) above pre-industrialised levels, sources said.
France, backed by the European Union, is working furiously to make the climate talks a success and Paris officials bristled at the reluctance of some countries to include its basic objectives in the statement.
“Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time,” said the communique marking the end of the summit in the Turkish resort of Antalya.
“We reaffirm the below 2C degree climate goal,” it said, underlining a “determination” to adopt a deal with legal force.
The blockbuster climate meeting will assemble 195 countries outside Paris from November 30 to December 11 in a bid to reach a post-2020 pact to try to stem global warming.
The 2C goal has guided the long-running talks – held under the auspices of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change – since 2009.
France is eager to avoid the fate of the Copenhagen talks in 2009 that also sought to craft a world climate rescue pact, but ended in near-fiasco amid splits between rich and emerging countries.
“At a certain point there was a feeling that we were not living on the same planet,” an exhausted European negotiator told reporters after more than 20 hours of talks with his G20 counterparts.
“The idea was to just state that the G20 countries will be committed to a regular process, to get to the numbers of the target, with regular steps, that was the idea. This is common sense,” he said.
Activists said the statement still offered nothing new and criticised a worrying lack of leadership just two weeks ahead of the Paris talks.
“They have done nothing to bring the 20 most powerful countries in the world closer to consensus,” said John Kirton, co-director of the G20 Research Group at the University of Toronto.
Observers denounced the failure of the G20 leaders to offer details on financing for developing countries to make the transition to clean energy.
Developing nations are looking to rich countries to show how they intend to meet a promise made in 2009 to mobilise $100 billion per year in climate finance from 2020.
The funds will help poorer economies make the shift from cheap and abundant fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, and shore up national defences against climate change-induced superstorms, drought, floods and sea-level rise.
France insists this will be key to getting an agreement in December.
It is “difficult” to see success in Paris “without climate finance on the table,” said Tristram Sainsbury, analyst at Lowy Institute in Sydney. “That is the big elephant in the room for the G20,” he said.