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Draft of Climate Change Agreement Enters Final Lap

FILE - Men fish next to cracked ground as the Atibainha dam lake dries up due to a prolonged drought in Nazare Paulista, Sao Paulo state, Brazil, Oct. 17, 2014.

A new round of U.N.-sponsored negotiations to draft a climate change agreement to halt global warming has begun in Geneva.

It is the first of several meetings this year aimed at finalizing a new, universal agreement, which world leaders are expected to sign at the end of the year in Paris.

As they enter this final lap, conference participants in Geneva are fully aware of the importance of the work ahead. They know only 10 months remain for them to achieve an international, legally binding agreement on climate change.

The work facing representatives from 194 countries in the week ahead is to streamline a draft text that currently runs to just under 40 pages.

Ilze Pruse, head of the Latvian Delegation to the European Union, said it is essential to have a full negotiating text ready by May as a basis for further negotiations in June.

“The IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] has told us that our below-2-degrees goal is still within reach, but time is of the essence. Concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are at record levels and the planet is getting warmer. 2014 was the hottest year in recorded history,” Pruse said.

Cut greenhouse gas emissions

IPCC scientists said nations must cut greenhouse gas emissions to 2 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial warming to avoid dangerous climate change.

Scientists warn of severe consequences if global warming continues to accelerate, including a rise in the sea level, food and water shortages, increased health problems and the risk of growing conflicts.

Elina Bardram, head of the European Commission Delegation, said all major economies must declare their targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by the end of March. She said the amount of the cuts will reflect the abilities and circumstances of different nations.

“But it is important that every contribution is as ambitious and fair as possible given each country’s individual responsibilities and their respective capabilities," Bardram said.

"By the Paris conference, we need to have a very clear understanding of how well on track we are with keeping global temperature increase within the two degree centigrade limit," she added.

Environmentalists said climate change talks in Paris will make or break international efforts to curb global warming.

Bardram said there are concerns that the target set in Paris may fall short of the 2-degree limit. She said nations must make commitments in light of the science to be able eventually to reach a climate neutral world in the second half of this century.