LE BOURGET, France—High-stakes climate talks outside Paris will not end Friday as planned but will continue at least one more day as diplomats try to overcome disagreements over how—or even whether—to share the costs of fighting climate change and shift to clean energy on a global scale.
Negotiators from more than 190 countries are trying to do something that’s never been done: reach a deal for all countries to reduce man-made carbon emissions and cooperate to adapt to rising seas and increasingly extreme weather caused by human activity. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry zipped in and out of negotiation rooms as delegates broke into smaller groups overnight to iron out their differences.
After talks wrapped up at nearly 6 a.m. (0500 GMT) Friday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said he is aiming for a final draft Saturday.
The two-week talks, the culmination of years of U.N.-led efforts for a long-term climate deal, had been scheduled to wrap up Friday. U.N. climate conferences often run past deadline, given the complexity and sensitivity of each word in an international agreement, and the consequences for national economies.
“I will not present the text Friday evening, as I had thought, but Saturday morning,” Fabius said on BFM television. “There is still work to do … Things are going in the right direction.”
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.
Analysts said the delay is not necessarily a bad sign.
“This needs consensus,” said Michael Jacobs, an economist with the New Climate Economy project, speaking to reporters outside Paris. “There’s a lot of negotiating to do.”
Sam Barratt of advocacy group Avaaz said, “We would rather they take their time and were patient with the right deal than rush it and get a breakdown … Getting 200 countries to agree on anything is tough. Getting them to agree on the future of the planet and a deal on climate change is probably one of the toughest pieces of negotiation they’ll ever get involved in.”
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was back at the conference Friday morning, meeting Chinese Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin and climate envoy Xie Zhenhua, as the negotiations enter the final stages.
Negotiators from China, the U.S. and other nations are haggling over how to share the burden of fighting climate change. Some delegates said a new draft accord presented late Thursday by Fabius allowed rich nations to shift the responsibility 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 U.S., 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,” Kerry said as he emerged from one meeting room with an entourage of security agents and State Department aides.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Kerry met with U.S. climate negotiator Todd Stern and the French hosts as well as speaking to a large-group session.
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, on a coffee break between meetings at 1:30 a.m. “If you remove differentiation you create very serious problems for developing countries.”
Economist and climate expert Lord Nicholas Stern said a clear accord is also important for the business world, so that “those making investments now can be much more confident that making those low-carbon will be profitable, and making them high-carbon carries financial risk.”
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 latest, 27-page draft 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 didn’t 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 doesn’t involve liability and compensation—a U.S. demand.