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Progress at Paris climate talks slow, but Canadian officials hopeful for a deal

An official who is representing Canada at the Paris climate conference says she's optimistic that it will end with a deal. The official says there are sticking points and the progress is a little slow, but that's not surprising given what's at stake.

China, India reluctant to sign on to a binding agreement that could punish them economically

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers a speech at the opening day of the UN climate change conference near Paris, France. Canadian officials say that progress on a comprehensive climate change deal with 190 countries is moving slowly, but they're hopeful. (Stephane Mane/Reuters)

An official who is representing Canada at the Paris climate conference says she's optimistic that it will end with a deal. 

The official said there are sticking points and the progress is a little slow, but that's not surprising given what's at stake.

"You need a bit of patience in these processes," the official said during a telephone briefing with reporters.

The official spoke to reporters on the condition that she not be named.

"The common elements that you can feel from all parties is the desire to leave the conference with an agreement so we are all focused on getting an agreement and we still have a full week head of us." 

Canada is one of 190 countries that are negotiating a new climate deal that would take effect in 2020 to curb greenhouse gasses and to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 C. 

But it's a huge task.

As leaders from about 150 countries around the world gather in Paris for the next two weeks, they have already agreed to on one point: global average temperatures must not be allowed to rise more than 2C over the averages of the pre-industrial era. 1:41

China, India throw up roadblocks

The deal would make all countries declare their national targets to control rising emissions. It would also have to help developing countries adapt to extreme effects of climate change while at the same time turning the world economy away from burning carbon and towards more renewable sources of energy.

Canada's approach to these negotiations is that all countries sign on and be up front about how they are planning to reduce emissions and be willing to verify every five years how well those national plans are working.

French President Francois Hollande, left, and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi attend a meeting on the opening day of the conference. China and India have thrown up some roadblocks as negotiations continue on curbing greenhouse gases. (Jack Naegelen/Reuters)

It's called "transparency, monitoring and verifying" in the UN negotiating jargon and is a crucial part of any new deal.

"I think everybody recognizes that we are going to need to show that we are doing what we set out to do," said the official. "That it is very important to be transparent about the progress we are making." 

But many developing countries are still leery of the concept. Dale Marshall, the national program director with Environmental Defence, an environmental advocacy organization, said that's not surprising.

"The developed nations are giving them a whole bunch of money and are saying 'we need transparency about what you do with it,'" said Marshall in an interview from Paris. "But the developing nations don't want auditors coming in. National autonomy is an issue."

Canada pledges $2.65B

Money is also another big issue in the negotiations. Canada has pledged an additional $2.65 billion over the next five years towards an international green fund of $100 billion. It's part of the fundamental concept that rich nations will help poorer ones whose economies didn't create the greenhouse gases but are feeling the effects.

"That pledge has helped," said Marshall.

But a section in the proposed text caused a fuss yesterday when China and India accused rich nations of trying to dodge their responsibilities.

The draft agreement includes new wording, backed by the U.S. and the EU, that says funding should be provided not only by countries classed as "developed" but also by others "in a position to do so."

From left: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, French President Francois Hollande, Brazil's President Dilma Roussef, and Chile's President Michelle Bachelet attend a meeting to launch Mission Innovation: Accelerating the Clean Energy Revolution at the climate conference. (Ian Langsdon/Reuters)

Emerging economies like China and India want to have the right to provide funding when they feel they are ready and not to be forced into it in a new agreement. 

Overall, the momentum at the talks has slowed down a bit since the world leaders spoke on the first day, according to Marshall.

He said Canada's role has improved since past climate talks with the negotiators working hard to champion human rights and indigenous rights.

There is also a big push among the Canadian delegation for help for those workers whose jobs are affected by action on climate change — like those in the oil and gas sector.

But Marshall said Canada is also being hardline, along with the U.S., in its opposition to a proposal for a "loss and damage" fund to help countries that have experienced irreversible damage from climate change, like rising sea levels.

The U.S. is against it because it could imply some sort of liability and Canada is taking the same approach.

"These are crunch issues, red lines, that could take the train off the rails," said Marshall. 

The climate talks will ramp up next week as environment ministers from 190 countries return for the final few days of negotiations.

About the Author

Margo McDiarmid

Parliamentary Bureau

Margo McDiarmid is a Senior Reporter with CBC's Parliamentary Bureau, who focuses on energy, the environment and Indigenous issues.

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