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Science & Environment

U.N. Holds Climate Talks In New York Ahead Of Paris Meeting


Diplomacy comes in many forms, from secret backroom discussions to grand public speeches, and today, it has been more the latter at the United Nations in New York City. Diplomats from all over the world are there to talk about climate change. And NPR science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce is listening, and she joins us from U.N. headquarters. Nell, set the scene for us. What's been going on there today?

NELL GREENFIELDBOYCE, BYLINE: Well, there's been a lot of talk, as you can imagine. I'm standing in a booth overlooking the meeting hall, which has got all these tables arranged in a horseshoe around a big screen. And basically, country after country has been having representatives talk. Just looking around the room - I'm looking at labels on the chairs - we've got Italy, we've got Indonesia, we've got India. People have spoken from China, France, Brazil, so a lot of countries here are making their views heard.

SIEGEL: And what's the purpose of this meeting?

GREENFIELDBOYCE: Well, the main purpose is to keep attention focused on the effort to get a serious global warming agreement - basically, an agreement to rein in the emissions of greenhouse gases that are warming the planet. And this is going to be the final agreement negotiated later this year in Paris. And it would be the first time that both developing and developed countries make commitments to try to contain their greenhouse gas emissions that's supposed to take effect in 2020. And what's happening now is not really negotiations, but just sort of trying to keep momentum going towards that goal.

SIEGEL: But there have been negotiating sessions before this. Are the countries anywhere close to a deal?

GREENFIELDBOYCE: Well, there's a lot of key issues unresolved. The last negotiation session was earlier this month and there's a lot of key issues that are unresolved. At that session, they had this 90-page draft agreement that they were trying to sort of streamline and cut down into something more manageable. And at the end of about 11 days, they had cut it down to 85 pages instead of 90 pages, so there's a lot left to do. And they've said here today that they hope to have another draft agreement presented to the group at the end of July, so a lot of people are worried that the pace is rather slow.

SIEGEL: Well, what are the major issues that the countries disagree on?

GREENFIELDBOYCE: Well, there's some really big issues, like how will countries be held accountable for the promises they make about what they're going to do to try to control climate change and how will those promises be reviewed and sort of, you know, make sure people actually do what they say they're going to? Another issue is finance. There have been pledges of, you know, a goal of $100 billion a year by 2020 that would help developing countries both adapt to climate change and sort of shift to strategies that would mitigate emissions. So where's that money going to come from? Is it going to be public? Is it going to be public-private partnership? Other issues are what are the long-term goals? I mean, years ago, there was a goal set that they were going to try to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius. But so far, people have been looking at the promises that countries have put forward as part of this negotiation, and they've said, you know, what we see so far is not going to get us to that goal. So what should the long-term goals be?

SIEGEL: As part of this process, countries have to come up with their own plans for what they're willing to do to fight climate change. How many countries have actually submitted plans to the U.N. by now?

GREENFIELDBOYCE: Well, there's about 11 countries, plus the European Union, and so places like the United States, Russia and Canada have submitted their plans. They're still waiting for plans from big players like Brazil and China. And here today, both of those countries said that they were working on their plans and hope to submit them soon.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce at the U.N. Nell, thanks.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.