Working from 'streamlined text,' officials race to finish global climate change deal

Story highlights

  • French minister says the pact to be presented will be "as balanced and as ambitious as possible"
  • Negotiators are in Paris talking about how to reduce carbon emissions, thus global warming
  • U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calls for "strong leadership" to reach a climate change agreement

(CNN)The United Nations' leader said Friday that a "cleaner, streamlined text" of a global climate change agreement has emerged, expressing hope that negotiators in Paris will resolve "several outstanding issues" and finalize a deal soon.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who'd earlier said a final pact could be finished Friday, has since told reporters that he expects it will be completed Saturday morning. If so, that'd mean all the parties would make an ultimate decision by midday Saturday.
"At 9 a.m. (3 a.m. ET Saturday), I will present a text that is as balanced and as ambitious as possible," Fabius said Friday.
    While not nearly as long as earlier versions, whatever is presented won't be brief and it won't be simple. After all, it's about the role of every country -- and, in some respect, every business and every person -- in reducing carbon emissions and limiting warning around the Earth, about as big and sweeping challenge as there is.
    It's an issue that many leaders want to address. That's why everyone from U.S. President Barack Obama to Russian President Vladimir Putin to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to German Chancellor Angela Merkel gathered in the French capital for the conference's kickoff.
    From that point, the goal was for representatives from 195 countries to transform this rhetoric into action, by instituting reforms and programs that, over the long run, will positively affect the world's climate.
    Negotiators took a key step toward that goal last Saturday, with the release a draft agreement that's been posted online by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
    On Friday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that changes have been made to produce a final document that's clearer and less complicated than before. He added that "very good solutions have been presented" to address sticking points.
    Still, Ban warned that only a few hours remain to reach a deal.
    "I sincerely hope," he said, "that the negotiators and ministers will take strong leadership ... and make a wise decision."

    Focus on role of developed, developing nations

    Many officials have talked about the importance of doing something to slow the pace of global climate change. And having legally binding reductions in greenhouse gas emissions has long been seen as a priority to make this happen.
    But getting every country in the world on the same page -- since even a few bad eggs could tilt the scales in the wrong direction, even if everyone else is doing their part -- has proved difficult over the years.
    It's also complicated to implement measures that have effective consequences for those who don't do their part. For now, it appears parties are leaning toward mostly an honor system agreement, with individual countries making pledges that won't necessarily be enforced by any world court or body.
    Those at COP21, which the conference is called, have already given a glimpse at what a deal might look like. It starts with the blueprint released last Saturday, with several updated iterations having followed since. The highlights, and sticking points, include:
    Set a (bigger) target: There's been lots of talk about taking steps to hold the increase in global average temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. The latest plan issued Thursday is even more ambitious than that -- "to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees, recognizing that this would significantly reduce risks and impacts of climate change."
    Developed countries helping developing ones: The latest draft sets a goal of $100 billion by 2020 "for mitigation and adaptation finance." This money can be used to "green" communities and to offset the costs from climate changes already in effect, like drought in Africa or rising waters in the Pacific or elsewhere.
    Which nations shoulder the load most: The document refers to "the principle of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities." In other words, some countries may do more relative to others.
    But figuring out who exactly should do what is tricky, given the competing national interests at play. Some say that those, like the United States and European Union states, who have been among the leading polluters should do more now. Others want the focus to be more about who is polluting at this time (and in the future).
    Segolene Royal, France's environmental minister, has said it's not that people don't know what has to be done. They just need the will -- political and otherwise -- to make it happen.
    The executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, voiced optimism last weekend that the world will make it happen by reaching a deal.
    "We can. We must," she tweeted. "We will act on climate change."