Climate deal typo hiccup solved 'in a small room,' France says

Reuters , Tuesday 15 Dec 2015

French Foreign Minister and COP21 president Laurent Fabius (R) gestures next to French head negotiator Laurence Tubiana during the final session of the COP21 United Nations climate change conference in Le Bourget, near Paris, on December 12, 2015 (Photo: AFP)

A last minute dispute over an apparent typing error in last weekend's global climate deal in Paris was solved "in a small room" and thanks to trust established during the talks, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Tuesday.

After two weeks of intense negotiations, the deal was almost derailed in the final hours when the more legally binding word 'Shall' appeared in one of the articles in the place of 'Should.'

The last-minute change in text article 4.4 of the COP 21 agreement aimed at limiting global warming by capping CO2 emissions said that developed nations 'shall' have 'economy-wide absolute emissions reduction targets', instead of 'should' as written in previous drafts.

'Shall' would have been unacceptable for the United States because that would make it a legal requirement, needing ratification by the Senate, something considered pretty much impossible by its negotiators.

"We made it crystal clear that every text up until this particular one had a different wording, so it wasn't hard for them to realize that somebody had made a mistake and accepted responsibility for it," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said last weekend.

Nicaragua and other emerging countries had tried to insist on 'shall', to ensure that rich countries took the lead. 'Should' is a much less onerous level of requirement.

"Trust was created," said Fabius, who has been praised for his masterly handling of the talks.

"It was this trust that got things done. The text is very complicated and very long etcetera, and in the last version of the text, the stenographers made a typing error... Instead of saying - as in the two previous versions - that the parties 'should' do this and that, 'shall.' was written."

He said South Africa, the leader of the G77 group of emerging countries told his colleagues after the error that they wanted the more binding word kept in.

"I had to come to a small room... I said trust me. I certify that it is just a typing error. Let's not block this deal for the human race for that. They told me, Mr. Fabius, we trust you."

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