Updated: Durban close to breakthrough climate deal

Observers report deal on Green Fund close to being signed off, as minister edge towards agreement on new roadmap

Rumours are circulating at the UN’s climate summit in Durban that a major deal could be reached in the next 24 hours, paving the way for a global emissions reduction treaty to be agreed by 2015.

Unconfirmed reports suggest high level ministerial negotiations could be closing in on a breakthrough, with observers speculating that the EU and the China and G77 group of developing economies are close to a deal that could see the Kyoto Protocol extended and a roadmap agreed towards a parallel legally binding treaty.

A series of press conferences were cancelled this afternoon as closed door negotiations overran, prompting a flurry of excitement in the conference hall.

The WWF’s Samantha Smith told the RTCC website that China was “putting more detail on the table” outlining its conditions for an agreement.

“They put their initial proposal on the table in a meeting with NGOs on Sunday, it was rather detailed then,” she said. “But when they were in the informals and in press conferences they were not giving a detailed proposal. My impression is that other countries have now come back to them with different offers and that is moving the process along, that is why everyone is running around.”

She added that a number of other countries, including Brazil, were also putting forward new texts, several of which have been well received and have fuelled hopes an agreement can be reached tomorrow.

In addition, RTCC said there were unconfirmed reports that a deal on the structure for the proposed $100bn Green Fund had been “signed off”, while separately observers writing on the social media site Twitter suggested agreements were close to being finalised on reforms to the REDD forest protection scheme and the CDM offsetting scheme.

Earlier in the day, hopes that an agreement could be reached on the EU’s proposed roadmap were fuelled by comments from US climate envoy Todd Stern in which he said the US supported the idea of a new roadmap and wanted to see an ambitious international deal reached by 2020.

Silvia Merega, chief negotiator for the G77 group, similarly told news agencies that the negotiations on the proposed roadmap were progressing well. “We have no problem dealing with what will be the next steps after Durban,” he said. “We have to have some kind of rules. I don’t know at this point if these rules would establish what the outcome of the negotiation would be.”

Meanwhile, the Guardian reported that the African Group of Nations has also signalled its support for the EU plan, despite remaining frustrated at the stance of the US and those countries that have ruled out signing up to a second Kyoto commitment period.

However, while the group of least developed countries has supported the EU’s plans for a new roadmap any agreement is likely to be met with a mixed response from green groups and development charities.

Critics have already warned that delaying a treaty until 2020 risks missing the opportunity to avoid temperature increases of over two degrees and could result in temperature increases of over four degrees unless extremely steep emission reductions are delivered post 2020.

Moreover, there remain no guarantees that a deal will be finalised with the EU remaining insistent that it will only sign up to a second Kyoto commitment period if other large emitters make detailed commitments to agree a new binding treaty by 2015.

A number of countries, including India and the US, have been reluctant to make such a commitment, while it also remains unclear how Japan, Russia and Canada, which have each signalled they will not extend the Kyoto Protocol, will fit into any new deal.

Negotiations are now expected to extend late into the evening ahead of the official final day of the summit tomorrow.

Ministers moved this evening to counsel against undue optimism. British Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne led the way, telling the Press Association that while good progress was being made the mooted deal could still “go pear-shaped”.

However, reports continued to circulate that the US, Canada, and Brazil had all agreed to support the EU’s roadmap, leaving China and India under growing pressure to sign on to the plan.

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