High-stakes climate talks in France will not end today as planned but will last at least until Saturday, French foreign minister Laurent Fabius has announced.
Diplomats and other top officials from more than 190 countries are trying to agree on the text of what would be an unprecedented deal for all countries to reduce man-made carbon emissions and co-operate to adapt to rising seas and increasingly extreme weather caused by human activity.
The two-week talks were scheduled to wrap up today but Mr Fabius said: “I will not present the text Friday evening, as I had thought, but Saturday morning.”
“There is still work to do,” he said. “Things are going in the right direction.”
Negotiators from China, the US and other nations haggled into the early hours over how to share the burden of fighting climate change and paying for a transition to clean energy on a global scale.
US secretary of state John Kerry zipped in and out of negotiation rooms as delegates broke into smaller groups overnight to iron out their differences.
The UN talks often run past deadline, given the complexity and sensitivity of each word in an international agreement.
Mr Fabius said he wanted to consult with various negotiating blocs so that “this is really a text ... that comes from everyone”.
“This represents all of the countries in the world and it’s completely normal to take a bit of time, so we will shift it,” he said.
Earlier, some delegates said a new draft presented late Thursday by Mr Fabius allowed rich nations to shift the responsibility of fighting global warming to the developing world.
“We are going backwards,” said Gurdial Singh Nijar of Malaysia, the head of a bloc of hardline countries that also includes India, China and Saudi Arabia.
They have put up the fiercest resistance against attempts by the US, the European Union and other wealthy nations to make emerging economies pitch in to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and help the poorest countries cope with climate change.
The issue, known as “differentiation” in United Nations climate lingo, was expected to be one of the last to be resolved.
“We’re working on it,” Mr Kerry said as he emerged from one meeting room with an entourage of security agents and State Department aides.
Mr Nijar said it was unreasonable to expect countries like Malaysia to rapidly shift from fossil fuels – the biggest source of man-made greenhouse gas emissions – to cleaner sources of energy.
“We cannot just switch overnight ... and go to renewables,” he said. “If you remove differentiation you create very serious problems for developing countries.”
This accord is the first time all countries are expected to pitch in – the previous emissions treaty, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol – only included rich countries.
The 27-page draft – two pages shorter than a previous version – included a long-term goal of keeping global warming “well below” 2C, while pursuing efforts to limit the temperature rise to 1.5C.
The draft also said governments would aim to peak the emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases “as soon as possible” and strive to reach “emissions neutrality” by the second half of the century.
That was weaker language than in previous drafts that included more specific emissions cuts and timeframes.
The biggest challenge is to define the responsibilities of wealthy nations, which have polluted the most historically, and developing economies including China and India where emissions are growing the fastest.
The draft did not resolve how to deal with demands from vulnerable countries to deal with unavoidable damage from rising seas and other climate impacts. One option said such “loss and damage” would be addressed in a way that does not involve liability and compensation – a US demand.