Talks are tense as deadline looms

Sleep-deprived and increasingly tense, diplomats and climate negotiators outside Paris struggled Thursday to narrow down a 29-page draft of an unprecedented deal to tackle climate change, but countries remained at odds on critical issues a day before the deadline for an agreement.

Small island nations demanded firmer rich country promises to help cope with future damage from rising seas. A top European negotiator accused China of blocking proposals for countries to update carbon pollution targets every five years.

And negotiators are still arguing over whether advanced developing countries such as China and oil-rich Arab nations should join industrialized countries in providing financial aid to poor countries trying to reduce carbon emissions that scientists say are warming the planet.

Secretary of State John Kerry said the talks are “getting down to the critical stage,” as he held meetings Thursday with top officials from two major developing nations — Brazil and India — and other negotiators. The Obama administration is working for a deal that reflects concerns about global warming but doesn’t require approval from Congress.

Diplomats are trying to reach the biggest accord to date to trim emissions and slow global warming. The last global agreement, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, only required rich countries to cut emissions. This one would include all countries.

“I’m reasonably optimistic that we will be able to have … a universal and very ambitious climate change agreement, which will make our human beings’ lives healthier,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday.

Associated Press