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COP 21 PARIS

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‘Progress’ in Paris climate change talks

Ministers and negotiators from more than 75 nations have made headway in talks ahead of a crunch UN climate summit in Paris, but "the task ahead is considerable", France's foreign minister said Tuesday.

'Progress' in Paris climate change talks
Hollande and other leaders at the 'pre-COP' talks which concluded Tuesday. Photo: Stephanie De Sakutin/AFP

Laurent Fabius, who will preside over the November 30th-December 11th conference in Paris, told journalists the three days of talks, which ended Tuesday, had been an important step and “progress has been made on at least five points”.

But he warned “the task ahead is considerable”.

UN climate chief Christiana Figueres added: “It continues to be entirely possible to come to an agreement… despite all the challenges in front of us.”

Fabius announced that 117 heads of state and government – including US President Barack Obama, China's Xi Jinping, Narendra Modi of India and Russia's Vladimir Putin – have confirmed they will attend the summit, tasked with inking a pact to stave off dangerous levels of global warming.

A rough draft of that hoped-for agreement has been drawn up by rank-and-file diplomats, with ministers set to sign the final deal at the end of the Conference of Parties (COP) in Paris.

The deal will be underpinned by national pledges to curb greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels blamed for climate change.

The “pre-COP” meeting sought to identify areas of potential compromise on issues still dividing nations and so avoid a repeat of the 2009 Copenhagen summit, which ended without a binding global pact.

Fabius said there was momentum towards ensuring that countries ratchet up their efforts to slash carbon pollution beyond pledges submitted ahead of the
summit.

“A review should take place every five years… to prepare an upward revision of national plans,” he said. Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest crude oil exporter, filed its climate pledge on Tuesday, saying up to 130 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year would be “avoided” by 2030.

 'Matter of survival'

Current national plans would yield average global temperatures three degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times – far beyond the 2C (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) limit that scientists say is the threshold for dangerous warming.

“The COP 21 will put in place the mechanism to close the gap,” Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Peru's environment minister, told AFP. “Getting to 2C depends on boosting our ambition.”

Enshrining the principle that nations would not be allowed to backtrack on their carbon-cutting promises is also gaining ground, Fabius said.

Another make-or-break issue on the table in the three-day talks was money for developing nations to help them decarbonize their economies, and shore up defences against unavoidable climate impacts.

“Climate finance was very central” to the discussions, said Thoriq Ibrahim, Minister of the Environment and Energy for the Maldives, one of many small island  states whose very existence is threatened by rising sea levels.

“Adaptation is a matter of survival for us,” he told AFP. “Nobody wants to leave the Maldives, we are there to stay.”

African leaders said they were looking to the talks for solutions to electrify the continent, grow its economies and keep their young people from fleeing abroad.

The 195-nation UN climate forum has officially adopted the goal of limiting global warming to 2C, but many vulnerable and poor nations are pushing for that threshold to be lowered to 1.5C.

Recent scientific studies have shown that even if the 2C goal is attained, the impact could be devastating in many parts of the world.

 A 2C rise would submerge land currently occupied by 280 million people, while an increase of 4C would cover areas home to 600 million, according to a study published by Climate Central, a US-based research group.
 

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CLIMATE

School buses cancelled as southwest France braces for more rain

School bus services have been cancelled a storms hit one département in southwest France - with conditions set to remain difficult throughout the day.

Storms are hitting south west France
Storms are hitting south west France. Image: Shutterstock

Firefighters in the Carcassonne département of Aude – which was formally placed on orange weather alert by forecasters at Météo-France on Tuesday afternoon – have so far reported no significant damage after a night of heavy rainfall. 

But emergency services remain on alert with the autumnal storm system set to deposit more rain over the area on Wednesday before it moves away to the east.

So far, more than 144mm of rain has fallen in the area between Durban and Corbières and 133 mm in Coustouge.

To the east of the Corbières’ region, Météo France has recorded between 130 and 150mm of precipitation, and between 70mm to 100mm at stations in Leucate, Sigean and Carcassonne in just three hours early on Wednesday.

According to France’s floods watchdog Vigicrues, several towns in the east and south of the département – Feuilla, Fraissé-des-Corbières, Saint-Jean-de-Barrou, Sigean, Port-la Nouvelle, Peyriac-de- Mer, Narbonne and Gruissan – are bearing the brunt of the rainfall. 

It currently has seven yellow flood alerts in the Aude, indicating a ‘Risk of flooding generating overflows and localised damage, or a rapid and dangerous rise in water levels, requiring particular vigilance, particularly in the case of exposed and / or seasonal activities.’

The weather conditions have prompted the Aude préfecture to cancel school bus services on Wednesday around Bassin Versant de la Berre, Bassin Versant de l’Orbieu, and Bassin Versant du Verdouble, and urge residents to exercise caution as they go about their daily activities.

The system has generated significant snowfall at higher altitudes in the Pyrénées-Orientales, Haute-Ariège and Andorra. Up to 1m of snow is forecast in areas exposed to the easterly wind.

The rains are expected to intensify between Narbonne and the east of the Montagne Noire on Wednesday, with storms developing as the day progresses. An additional 120mm of precipitation could fall in localised areas during the day before the system moves east towards the Hérault then towards the lower valley of the Rhône and the Paca region on Thursday.

Light to moderate rains will persist in Aude overnight into Thursday.

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