Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull is one of 80 world leaders who have already accepted an invitation to attend the Paris climate summit that will seek a global climate pact in Paris in December.
Turnbull, along with the leaders of the US, China, India and Brazil, as well as the UK, Germany, South Africa and Canada, will attend the first days of the summit, beginning November 30, in an attempt to forge a political agreement on the pact, which will seek to limit global warming to a maximum 2°C.
Environmentalists – and indeed many in business circles – want the Paris agreement to send a clear signal for a major push into renewable energy and other initiatives that will lead to a rapid de-carbonasiation of the global economy, and a major shift from fossil fuel investment.
The move to have global leaders attend the start of the conference is in contrast to the Copenhagen talks, which broke down in chaos in the last few days after more than 100 global leaders flew in at the last moment in an attempt to break through a negotiating fog.
This time the situation will be reversed. The French government has long planned that if leaders were to come to the Paris talks, they would need to be there at the start, set in train a political agreement, and set the tone for bureaucrats to nut out the finer details over the ensuring two weeks.
“Together with president François Hollande, we decided to invite heads of state to attend the first day and not the end as in Copenhagen,” foreign minister Laurent Fabius told journalists in Paris this week.
In Copenhagen, Fabius said, “the negotiators were waiting for heads of state to negotiate, and the heads of state failed to resolve anything.”
This time, “the idea is to provide a political impetus at the beginning” of the conference – which will see the leaders take turns to make statements.
Negotiators have agreed, roughly, what the text should look like, but it remains an unwieldy document at some 55 pages and there are still major sticking points: one about the level of ambition, and one about the availability of finance.
Various analyses – expected to be confirmed by a UN report to be released later Friday – have shown that the individual commitments from more than 150 countries (known as INDCs) will lower the likely growth in average global temperatures above pre-industrial times to around 2.7°C.
While this is a vast improvement on previous trajectories, analysis shows that nations will need to double their efforts again to meet that target.
There is an increasing push, particularly from vulnerable nations in Africa, Asia and islands to push for a limit of 1.5°C, and for an effective moratorium on new coal mines.
Developing countries still want the developed nations to take more of a lead on reducing emissions, but the focus is now also turning to major developing countries such as China, India and Indonesia which, along with the US, make up the top four emitters in the world.