Negotiators on Wednesday tiptoed through a problem-laden draft for a UN climate pact amid deepening concern over a December deadline to seal the deal.
Just one day was left in a key round of talks intended to propel 195 countries toward a historic accord in Paris in just over six months.
However, after 10 days of haggling, observers said almost nothing has been done to demine a text stuffed with political explosives.
“There has been too much time spent fiddling around with the unimportant details of the text,” Christian Aid’s Mohamed Adow said. “Negotiators have acted like schoolchildren coloring in their homework timetable and not getting around to any actual homework.”
The goal is a post-2020 agreement that will reduce the perceived threat of climate change for future generations.
It would look to limit global warming to 2oC over pre-Industrial Revolution levels, aimed at fending off droughts, floods, storms and rising seas.
However, the draft agreement, sprawling over nearly 90 pages, reflects the position of every single country, with many views in direct contradiction to others.
The Bonn meeting has focused on maintaining consensus, by surgically removing duplicated text or compromising on some of the less-contentious wording.
The tough decisions will ultimately be made by ministers and heads of state, as negotiators have no mandate to make political concessions.
However, without a manageable text to give their bosses, deadlock could result, as was notoriously the case at the 2009 Copenhagen summit — the last time UN members tried to forge a climate treaty.
“We are gravely concerned about the progress of the negotiations and would like to express our utmost disillusionment on the mistrust reigning in the corridors,” campaign group Pan African Climate Justice Alliance member Mithika Mwenda said. “We challenge the parties to effectively utilize the remaining few hours to agree on something concrete that will illuminate some hope to millions of people waiting for signals that this will cease to be an endless game of musical chairs.”
The potential time bombs in the text are many.
One of the biggest is how to encourage countries to crank up their pledges of carbon cuts and monitor that they honor their promises.
“Ambition is ultimately a question of political will, but the Paris agreement must have strong design features to help drive it up over time,” said Marshall Islands Minister of Foreign Affairs Tony de Brum, whose country supports a five-yearly review.
Also in dispute are basic questions such as the agreement’s long-term goal and financial help for developing countries.
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