Paris climate summit may produce legally binding deal

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The ongoing Paris climate conference could result in a package consisting of a legally binding agreement, China's top climate negotiator said in the French capital on Thursday.

Negotiators from nearly 200 countries will try to reach an agreement by Friday next week that sets the world on a path to cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Before then, they have to draft a text that should be ready by Saturday for ministers to review next week, as scheduled.

"However, the process has been very slow and there are many divergences," said Xie Zhenhua, China's special representative for climate change.

President Xi Jinping, in a speech at the opening of the Paris summit on Monday, said the two-week conference should reach a "comprehensive, balanced, ambitious and legally binding agreement".

Many observers are skeptical about the value of the Paris agreement if it is not legally binding. "China insists the outcome should be legally binding and universal — including all countries," Xie said.

Given that it would be difficult for some countries to have the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions — which set the emission targets submitted to the United Nations — passed domestically, the Paris meeting could result in "a package consisting a legally binding framework or instrument for addressing climate change with non-binding decisions", Xie said.

The division between developed and developing countries should be noted as the historic responsibilities between them haven't changed, Xie said. The differentiation should be reflected in relevant elements of the agreement "in an appropriate manner".

In Copenhagen in 2009, developed countries promised to mobilize $100 billion a year in climate financing by 2020.

"If the developing countries feel disappointed in this regard, the process (of talks on climate change) will be affected.

In Paris, negotiators should set a clear timetable and road map for climate financing before 2020,"Xie said.

Last month, a report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said rich countries had made significant progress in fulfilling their pledge and $62 billion was provided to help developing countries address climate change last year.

Xie said the OECD figure cannot be accepted by developing countries, as some observers said it included aid and loans related to climate change.

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