December 7, 2015 / 10:17 AM / 2 years ago

'Clock ticking to catastrophe', Ban urges strong climate deal

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon delivers his speech during the Action Day at the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, December 5, 2015.Philippe Wojazer

PARIS (Reuters) - Warning that the "clock is ticking towards climate catastrophe", U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged governments on Monday to agree a strong deal to limit global warming and transform the economy to greener energy.

"Outside these negotiating halls, there is a rising global tide of support for a strong, universal agreement," Ban told environment and foreign ministers at the start of an intense home stretch of the talks, due to end on Friday.

He urged delegates from almost 200 nations not to duck the hard choices they face as four years of often glacial-paced negotiations peak. The talks are aimed at producing the strongest agreement yet to bind both rich and poor to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

"The world is expecting more from you than half-measures and incremental approaches," Ban told the negotiators, calling for "a transformative agreement."

Ban said a final deal should include a review of national pledges at five year intervals starting before 2020. Some developing nations are reluctant to commit to such an early timetable.

He also said the private sector needed a clear signal that a shift to low emissions was "inevitable" and told rich nations to lead in cutting emissions. Ban said emerging nations also needed access to $100 billion a year promised by 2020 to help them tackle climate change.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, dispatched to secure a deal meant to cement President Barack Obama's legacy as a guardian of the environment, will work alongside ministers from almost 200 nations this week to try to secure a deal.

Negotiators approved a pared-down draft text on Saturday, and handed over the toughest questions to their bosses, who will spend the week hammering out thorny issues including a system for funding developing nations and the mechanisms for monitoring national pledges to reduce emissions.

Almost every nation will make brief speeches this week outlining national policies and hopes. They are due to reach a final accord on Friday, but the talks are widely expected to run into overtime, as previous summits have.

Crossroads

While officials have been pleased with progress halfway through the two-week summit, Indian Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar cautioned that "substance-wise, we are not midway but ... at a crossroads".

He reiterated New Delhi's demand that richer nations must shoulder the biggest curbs to "pay back their debt for the overdraft that they have drawn on the carbon space", highlighting one of the most difficult obstacles to a deal.

To speed things along, the host, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, has formed working committees headed by ministers to tackle the biggest themes, which include "differentiation" (the distinction between rich and poor nations, critical for questions of financing) and "ambition" (how to improve on national efforts in future).

Some form of agreement seems all but certain, with major powers eager to avoid the failure of the last summit in Copenhagen, six years ago.

Still, all sides say the deal will not be enough to prevent global temperatures rising past a dangerous threshold of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial times.

Just how strong the accord will be remains to be seen. Some nations want a commitment to phase out fossil fuels by the middle of the century; others see that as unrealistic. Some of the most vulnerable countries, such as low-lying islands, want firm language on how rich nations who have emitted the most will pay for the future damage caused by rising seas.

Reporting by Alister Doyle, Barbara Lewis, Bate Felix, Emmanuel Jarry in Paris; Writing by Jonathan Leff and Alister Doyle; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt.

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