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Day's delay, as Paris climate summit nears finish line

Racing to strike an accord, negotiators at the Paris climate conference have stretched their schedule by a day. The French hosts are now aiming to reach global consensus on Saturday, Andrea Rönsberg reports from Paris.

After overnight negotiations, ending near daybreak on Friday, came news that the COP21 climate summit would go into overtime.

"I will present the text not on Friday evening as I thought, but on Saturday morning, early in the morning, and we will be able to take the necessary decision by the middle of the day," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, presiding over the summit, told BFMTV on Friday.

Looking rather pale and tired late on Thursday, when presenting the third draft climate agreement, Fabius had said he hoped "we can now move to a decisive step."

"There are only a few open questions which remain," said Christoph Bals of NGO Germanwatch. "What's key now is that countries don't start to unravel compromises that have already been made."

fabius paris klimagipfel außenminister frankreich COP21 le bourget

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has set a strict timetable to reach a deal

A strong signal?

Observers were split on how strong the text is on signaling investors to get out of fossil fuels.

Notably, the term "decarbonization" that was present in an earlier draft, and that had been endorsed by leaders of the seven biggest economies (G7) at their June summit in Elmau, Germany, is now lacking.

Instead, the new draft for the climate agreement refers to the goal of achieving "greenhouse gas emission neutrality in the second half of the century."

"The word 'decarbonization' is not there, but in terms of timing, this text is similiar to what the G7 agreed on in Elmau," said Bals, adding that he thought that was positive.

But Jan Kowalzig of development organization Oxfam disagrees. "This is not the signal we need to increase pressure on investors to get out of oil, coal and gas," he said.

Good news for developing countries

Kowalzig said the new draft was an improvement in terms of what is referred to as "climate finance."

"The new text is phrased in a way that signals a certain predictability that financial support to developing countries will increase over time," Kowalzig told DW.

"If there are no further changes to this wording, that would be a success," he said.

At the climate conference in Cancun, Mexico, in 2010, industrialized countries had committed to coming up with $100 billion per year by 2020 to support developing nations in adapting to climate change, and investing in renewable energy technology.

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But developing nations have been critical that there are no clear pathways or assigned responsibilites to ensure industrialized countries make good on that promise, and have been calling for more credibility regarding any further pledges on finance for the time period starting in 2020.

Strict rules

Negotiators are to work on the new draft overnight within a strict framework pronounced by a conference chief who seemed very determined.

During nightly meetings, Fabius said, only statements "directed at finding solutions" would be allowed.

If solutions could not be found immediately, small groups should gather around an appointed mitigator in the corner of negotiating rooms and find compromises "within 30 to 45 minutes."

So far, observers and negotiators alike have expressed appreciation for the way the the French foreign minister and his team have conducted the process.

Steering negotiations, the French way

Fabius thus far has avoided getting bogged down in procedural questions and focused on conducting negotiations in smaller, more effective, circles without causing any party to feel excluded.

"Fabius is doing an excellent job," said German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks.

WWF's Regine Günther agreed: "The French have so far done a very good job," he said. "They have stuck to the schedule to a degree we have not seen at any other climate conference."

"But the question is how far they'll go to reach compromise within the schedule they have set for themselves," Günther said.

Plenary's party pushed to weekend?

Had things continued according to the original French plan, Fabius would have called a plenary session some time on Friday to conclude the agreement, a UN official said. There would then be a short pause - "and then a party."

Now another night's negotiations are liable to precede any such party.

"But the atmosphere is good ... things are proceeding in a good sense," Fabius said on BFMTV on Friday morning, hoping to maintain that atmosphere on another decisive day's talks.

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