Negotiators from 195 nations have delivered a blueprint for a pact to save mankind from disastrous global warming, raising hopes that decades of arguments will finally end with a historic agreement in Paris.
The planned deal would aim to break the world’s dependence on fossil fuels for energy, slashing the greenhouse gas emissions from burning oil, coal and gas that are causing temperatures to rise dangerously.
Tortuous UN negotiations dating back to the early 1990s have failed to forge unity between rich and poor nations, and the Paris talks are being described as the “last, best chance” to save mankind.
They began on Monday with a record-breaking gathering of 150 world leaders who sought to energise the process, and the next crucial phase ended on Saturday with the adoption of a draft text of an agreement.
Negotiators finalised the draft following an often tense week of talks at a conference centre in Le Bourget on the northern outskirts of Paris.
While many extremely contentious points still have to be resolved by ministers during a scheduled five days of talks starting on Monday, delegates said they felt the foundations had been laid for success.
“We are very happy to have this progress. The political will is there from all parties,” said China’s chief climate envoy, Su Wei.
After the draft was adopted to loud applause, South African negotiator Nozipho Mxakato-Diseko drew on her nation’s revered democracy icon in a bid to inspire others.
“In the words of Nelson Mandela, it always seems impossible until it is done,” she said.
Schwarzenegger uses farm childhood to urge world to go green
Arnold Schwarzenegger has recalled a childhood of milking cows in the rain and drawing water from a well as he called for the world to turn to clean energy and protect the world’s environment from global warming.
The former California governor and action movie star harked back to his Austrian upbringing as he called for action in an address to international politicians in Paris, on the sidelines of a UN conference where negotiators are seeking a worldwide climate-saving accord.
“One of my chores was every morning at six o’clock to go to the farm next door and to milk the cow and to bring home the milk,” he said.
“It did not matter what the weather was — whether it was cold, it was hot, raining, thunder, shower, whatever.
“My brother and I walked 200 metres to the well to get our family’s source of water for drinking and for bathing every day.
“We played in the fields, we swam in the streams and the lake — the environment was absolutely everything to us,” he added.
In his “idyllic” childhood, Mr Schwarzenegger said he could never have imagined a world in which humanity would dump 40 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
“But I also could not have imagined that one day I would become governor of the great state of California, the eighth largest economy in the world and that I would have the power to do something about it,” he said.
He pressed decision-makers at every level to turn to smart, clean energy sources.
“This is the challenge of our time and this is the real world,” he said.
“This is not the movie world which is the other world that I come from.
“There are no visual effects here, no special effects, there is no script writing that we can change for a better ending — nothing like that.”
‘Most exciting time’ in human history
Schwarzenegger was one of more than 50 celebrities committed to fighting climate change, from US actor Sean Penn to Chinese internet tycoon Jack Ma, who gathered at the conference on Saturday to help build momentum.
“Perhaps this is the most exciting time in human history,” Mr Penn told a special event at the conference.
“Those illusions of having too many difficult choices have always created chaos. Now we live in a time where there are no choices. We have certainty.”
Scientists warn our planet will become increasingly hostile for mankind as it warms, with rising sea levels that will consume islands and populated coastal areas, as well as catastrophic storms and severe droughts.
Small island nations most vulnerable to rising sea levels and stronger storms, which are often railroaded by the powerful in the UN talks, also expressed cautious optimism about the draft agreement.
Palau’s president Tommy Remengesau Jr said Pacific nations were already living “the frontline impact of climate change” and it will a matter of time before the rest of the world felt the same, if no deal was struck.
“We would have wished to be further along than we are at this point, but the text being forwarded so far reflects our key priorities,” said Thoriq Ibrahim from the Maldives and chair of the Alliance of Small Island States.
No one in Le Bourget however, is under the illusion that a December 11 deal is guaranteed.
There are vivid memories of the spectacular failure at the 2009 climate talks in Copenhagen, the last time the world tried to create a global warming pact.
“At this point in Copenhagen we were dealing with a 300-page text and a pervasive sense of despair. In Paris we’re down to a slim 21 pages and the atmosphere remains constructive,” Greenpeace climate expert Martin Kaiser said.
“But that doesn’t guarantee a decent deal. Right now the oil-producing nations and the fossil fuel industry will be plotting how to crash these talks.”