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Eleventh Hour Panic: UN Summons Leaders To Closed-Door Climate Meeting

Ewa Krukowska and Alex Nussbaum, Bloomberg

Frustrated by slow progress in global climate talks, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon plans to invite around 40 world leaders including President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to a closed- door meeting next month.

The meeting will take place in New York on September 27, a day ahead of the UN general assembly, said three people with knowledge of the matter. Ban also plans to invite French President Francois Hollande, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, as well as Chinese leaders, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because they’re not authorised to speak to the media.

More than 190 nations are working to reach an agreement in Paris this December to limit greenhouse-gas emissions and avert the worst effects of global warming. While Obama, Modi and other world leaders have declared support for the goal, negotiations are moving slowly and Ban has complained repeatedly about the slow pace of the talks. Deep divides remain about the legal structure of the agreement, how to provide financial help to poorer countries and other issues.

“The idea of the heads-of-state working meeting on climate change at the end of September is to give a political push to the negotiations in order to succeed in Paris,” said Alexis Lamek, deputy permanent representative at the French mission to the UN. “Leaders will exchange ideas on the level of ambition and the means to reach that goal.”

France is helping to organize the closed-door meeting. It’s been in the works for months and comes as time is running short for what participants hope will be an historic deal. Meanwhile, diplomats gathered in Bonn Monday for the penultimate round of talks.

Countries accounting for more than two-thirds of heat- trapping pollution have filed plans with the UN on how they expect to control greenhouse gases. The 28-nation European Union pledged to cut emissions by at least 40 percent by 2030 from 1990 levels. The U.S. wants to lower pollution by 26 to 28 percent by 2025 from 2005, and China promised to peak its emissions, the world’s highest, by around 2030.

But major players including India, Indonesia and Brazil still haven’t submitted their climate plans, and the draft text for the Paris agreement remains an 88-page grab bag of conflicting options that negotiators still must sort out. At a news conference in Paris last week, Ban urged them to pick up the pace.

“We have only less than a hundred days for final negotiations,” Ban said, complaining that diplomats were still working on a “business-as-usual” schedule. “They have been repeating what they have been doing during the last 20 years. We don’t have time to waste.”

Some of the top issues on the agenda of the New York climate meeting will be how to get countries to increase the level of emissions cuts they’re willing to make and how often countries should be required to update their pledges after the agreement takes effect in 2020, according to one of the people familiar with the plans.

Formal invitations still haven’t been sent out, and it’s unclear who will attend, the person said.

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