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Negotiators agree to early draft of UN climate deal

The draft agreement sets the stage for a landmark climate change deal in Paris in December

Almost 200 countries agreed to the United Nations draft text for a deal to fight climate change on Friday but put off hard choices about how to stop the alarming rise in global temperatures.

The blueprint is set to result in a landmark climate deal in Paris this December. That settlement will not, in itself, stop climate change, but it will be the first time that all countries acknowledge “the global nature and urgency of climate change calls for the participation" of all parties, as the draft text states. Previously, only rich countries have committed to limit their emissions of global warming gases.

The 86-page draft, much longer than an earlier 38-page version, will form the basis for negotiations at the Paris climate change talks.  "Although it has become longer, countries are now fully aware of each other's positions," Christiana Figueres, the head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, told Reuters.

Negotiators had to agree an official text in Geneva to meet a U.N. requirement that it is in place six months before a summit in Paris starting in November 2015. Figueres said the long text would make the next negotiating session in June "a little bit more difficult."

The document includes radically varying proposals for slowing climate change. One foresees a phasing-out of net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, for example, while another proposal seeks a decline in greenhouse gas emissions "as soon as possible.” The draft also includes ideas that are thought unlikely to gain wide support, such as a Bolivian demand for an International Climate Justice Tribunal for countries that fail to keep pledges for action.

Delegates praised a positive mood at what are often fractious talks about sharing out the burden of curbing greenhouse gases among rich and poor nations, from top producers of emissions, such as China and the United States, to oil producing countries and oil importers.

A European Union representative said negotiators should have worked harder to streamline the text of the draft agreement to push countries closer to a final deal. "We have lost an opportunity for progress," said Elina Bardram, head of the European Commission delegation.

Greenpeace, the international environmental group, said that although the draft includes some “reasonable long-term goals,” it failed to address issues such as financial aid to poorer nations, which are more dependent on what environmentalists call “dirty” fuels like coal.

"The Paris Treaty threatens to become an empty shell,” said Martin Kaiser, Greenpeace’s Head of International Climate Politics, in a statement after the draft was released. “To prevent this, parties like the U.S., China, the EU and others must present their short and long-term commitments for the mitigation of greenhouse gases at the end of March.”

"They need to set 100 percent green and clean energy firmly on their horizons, while helping those countries that are feeling the worst effects of climate change already,” Kaiser added.

Other activists said it was positive that all views were present in the draft text. "Everything in Geneva has set us up for success at Paris," Julie-Anne Richards of the Climate Justice Programme told Reuters. She said Geneva contrasted with many U.N. sessions that can "feel like pulling teeth ... painful and hard to get things done."

Last year was the warmest on record, and the U.N. panel of climate scientists says man-made climate change is already visible in more heat extremes, downpours and rising sea levels as ice melts from the Alps to the Andes.

Al Jazeera and wire services 

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