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Talks In Paris To Reach A Treaty On Global Warming Enter Final Week


This is the week when negotiators from around the world are supposed to reach a deal on fighting climate change. They've been talking for about a week in Paris. World leaders, including President Obama, have come and gone. The negotiators remain. And NPR science correspondent Christopher Joyce is here with an update. Chris, how much progress has been made?

CHRISTOPHER JOYCE, BYLINE: Well, Steve, you could say they started with a glass one-quarter full, and now it's about half-full. Negotiators came last week with rather ambitious pledges to reduce their emissions of the greenhouse gases that cause warming. And after a week, they've got a 48-page document on how to make those reductions work. But frankly, it's got more escape clauses than a mortgage contract. It's really an outline, where the really hard work has yet to come.

INSKEEP: And remind us what the goal is here.

JOYCE: To keep the average temperature of the planet from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius above what it was before the Industrial Revolution. That's about 3 and a half degrees Fahrenheit, as we know it. Every country, rich or poor, has got to pitch in to do this. But - and it's a big but here - there's a lot of horse trading going on here.

INSKEEP: Who's trading what?

JOYCE: Well, the developing countries, they want financial help. And they say, come on; the Western industrialized nations caused this problem, after all, getting rich by burning fossil fuels. So the West should help pay to help the developing world go green and skip the fossil-fuel thing. For their part, the developed countries say, OK, we'll help. But how much money do you want? And how will it be spent and for how long? The other big question to resolve is, you know, when you add up all the pledges on emissions cuts that have been offered, you know, you're not going to get the 2 degree. You're going to go beyond 2 degrees. So it looks like everybody's going to have to repeat this torturous process over the next couple of decades to keep ratcheting emissions down even further.

INSKEEP: Chris, everything you just said that's still an outstanding problem could have been described as an outstanding problem a week ago. Is there optimism that they can actually get to a conclusion here?

JOYCE: Cautious optimism, Steve. You know, a lot of the people here have been through this year after year after year. There is a bit of nail biting going on. They don't want to see a failure again. But they do say that the Paris document looks pretty good. And they say they've only got another half a glass to fill.

INSKEEP: Chris, thanks very much.

JOYCE: My pleasure.

INSKEEP: That's NPR science correspondent Christopher Joyce in Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Christopher Joyce is a correspondent on the science desk at NPR. His stories can be heard on all of NPR's news programs, including NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition.