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At Climate Change Conference, More Time Is Needed To Reach A Deal


It comes down to this - in an auditorium in Paris, hundreds of negotiators from just about every country in the world have to decide how to rescue the world's climate. The United Nations Climate Summit in Paris was scheduled to finish today. It's possible it could go into the weekend. After 12 days of haggling, there is a plan, but there's also some work left to be done, and NPR's Christopher Joyce is in Paris following all of this. Chris, good morning.


GREENE: Well, so, Chris, I know it sounds like there's some work that might still have to be done. But broadly speaking, I mean, what might this deal accomplish here?

JOYCE: The really important thing is to keep the world's temperature from rising more two degrees Celsius above what it was before the Industrial Revolution. Now, there's been some climate change already - almost a degree - well, half a degree or so anyway. And if it keeps going up, if it goes over two degrees above what it was, you're talking about some serious damage. The scientists say you're going to get a lot more bad weather, more hurricanes, more heat waves, more drought. And so two degrees is kind of a threshold. It's like we don't want to go over that. We don't want to increase temperatures more than that.

GREENE: OK, so that's the important number. What are some of the details or some of the goals in here, you know, that the countries are sort of looking at to try and hit that mark?

JOYCE: Well, you have to reduce greenhouse gases. You have to take carbon dioxide, for the most part, out of our industrial waste, stop putting it in the atmosphere. Methane is another one. These are the products of industry, and also deforestation creates a lot of carbon dioxide. So these are practices that people have to cut back on to stop that from happening.

GREENE: And there's a term in this agreement - climate neutral. What does that exactly mean?

JOYCE: Yeah, it's kind of complicated, but the easiest way to put it is that there should be a net zero amount of greenhouse gases going up in the atmosphere. Now, that's impossible to do. There's going to be some no matter what people do. So the idea is whatever does go up has to be balanced by some mechanism that sucks it back out, an equivalent amount. The best way to do that is to grow forests, or not cut them down. But growing forests will actually suck more carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

GREENE: Now, I know that everyone has been talking about money as one of the big things that could hold things up. But can you just explain how money relates to a climate agreement?

JOYCE: The developing countries have agreed to play ball in this. I mean, in the past they were not required to reduce emissions. Now they are. But they don't have the wherewithal to do a lot of this. I mean, they need to develop their economies, and doing it without fossil fuels is going to be expensive, ergo give us some money. That's the argument that they bring to the table, and the developed countries have said so far, yeah, we'll do that. However, one of the sticking points is we need to verify how that money is spent. We want to make sure that it's spent the right way. So that's been a tough negotiating issue. And there's still some work to do on that before this is all tied up.

GREENE: And I guess the other question is how much money are developed countries willing to put on the table?

JOYCE: They put up $100 billion by 2020. At least, that's what's promised. Developing countries say, OK, but, you know, that's just a start. That should be a floor. We're going to need more in the future. This is going to be a long-term problem, and that's still being negotiated.

GREENE: Could this throw a wrench into the whole thing or do people feel like this deal is close?

JOYCE: It's close. I really don't think that the developing world for one is going to walk away from the huge amount of money that could be transferred here from the wealthy countries to the less developed countries. And as far as the developed world's concerned, they would look pretty mean-spirited if they walked away from this at this point.

GREENE: NPR's Christopher Joyce covering those big climate talks in Paris. Chris, thanks a lot.

JOYCE: My pleasure. 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.
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