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As Terrorism Fight Unites G-20, Climate Change Exposes Divisions


After uniting to fight terrorism and narrowing their differences over the future of Syria, one issue remains divisive among world leaders: what should be done to stop the planet from getting hotter.

France is pressing for tougher pledges on climate change from the Group of 20 nations ahead of climate talks in Paris that start at the end of this month. Officials at the G-20 summit in Turkey worked overnight and into the morning as they hammer out the wording of a paragraph in the final communique due later on Monday.

The section on climate emerged as the foremost sticking point in negotiations over what countries will promise to undertake. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said all leaders reaffirmed their commitment to gather in Paris following the slaughter by Islamic militants in the city, yet he pushed for more ambitious language about tackling rising temperatures as the starting point for the meeting.

“I found the text too weak and that it wasn’t up to what we should expect from the G-20,” Fabius, who represented Francois Hollande at the summit after the president canceled his trip to stay in Paris, said in a late evening briefing on Sunday. The final language on climate was due to be completed at a working lunch for leaders.

Two Degrees

The key issue is whether to mention the aim to limit the rise in global warming to 2 degrees, which is what United Nations scientists have said the world needs to do by the end of this century to avoid catastrophic climate changes. The target wasn’t mentioned in an earlier draft, Fabius said.

While emission-reduction pledges submitted by nations so far are not enough to reach that goal, the international deal that envoys aim to reach in Paris may encourage further cuts as long as it includes a mechanism to revise the commitments, the UN Environment Program said earlier this month.

Another bone of contention is that France and allies such as Germany want to include a line in the communique to simply to say that climate change is a common challenge and needs collective effort and enhanced action, according to an EU official. The word “collective” wasn’t in the text, the official said, who spoke on condition of anonymity as the haggling continues over the language.


The COP 21 climate summit is due to begin on Nov. 30, when leaders from around the world will meet in Paris to attempt what a 2009 summit in Copenhagen failed to do: reach a global agreement on how to cut fossil-fuel use. Countries have already submitted so-called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, pledging the scope of emissions cuts.

The divide at the G-20 initially emerged over whether countries will back a more “differentiated” approach, where developed nations carry an extra burden, or “shared” emissions responsibilities, which would require developing nations to make bigger cuts, according to officials who asked not to be named.

A reference to differentiation was removed from an early draft of the communique, though was cited in a separate statement from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, the so-called BRICS developing economies.

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