World leaders in final stretch of talks to reach landmark climate deal

LE BOURGET, France -- French leaders touted a draft climate deal to slow but not stop global warming, announcing what they call an ambitious but realistic compromise Saturday outside Paris.

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After years of gridlock, world leaders hoped the unprecedented pact would be approved by nearly 200 nations later in the day.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, the host of the talks, said the pact would aim to keep the rise in global temperatures by the year 2100 "well below" 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) compared with pre-industrial times and "endeavour to limit" them even more, to 1.5 degrees Celsius. That was a key demand of poor countries ravaged by the effects of climate change and rising sea levels.

French President Francois Hollande, who joined the meeting Saturday to add weight to the negotiations, called the proposal unprecedented.

"The decisive agreement for the planet is here and now," Hollande said. "France calls upon you to adopt the first universal agreement on climate."

The draft, completed after negotiations that stretched through the night, was being translated before being presented to international delegates. Delegations then had a few hours to study it before it goes to a plenary meeting for eventual adoption.

French leaders and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon praised both the draft accord and themselves for what if approved would do what delegates failed to achieve at their last summit in Copenhagen in 2009.

"We must protect the planet that sustains us," Ban told the negotiators. "We need all our hands on deck."

If the 190 nations gathered in Paris agree to an accord, it would be a breakthrough. The U.N. has been working for more than two decades to persuade governments to work together to reduce the man-made emissions that scientists say are warming the planet.

Activists planned protests across Paris on Saturday to call attention to populations threatened by melting glaciers, rising seas and expanding deserts linked to climate change.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was working at the talks to strike compromises with developing nations such as India to ensure a deal that satisfies the Obama administration's hopes for an agreement that the U.S. can sign on to without Congressional approval. He said he believed the pact would be adopted on Saturday.

"It should be good but we'll see. Little things can happen but we think it's teed up," Kerry told reporters.

Even before the draft was released, delegates were optimistic that it would strike a good balance between the demands of the different participating nations.

Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga of the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu was upbeat. "The signals that have come to me give me encouragement that we are going to have a very ... comprehensive and strong agreement in Paris," he told the AP.

Fabius said the "final draft" would retain a long-term goal of keeping the overall global temperature rise from pre-industrial times to the end of this century "well below" 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), while pursuing efforts to limit the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Already, the world has warmed by about 1 degree Celsius, and poor low-lying nations and environmental groups have pushed to keep a goal of 1.5 degrees in the text.

"Even at 1.5 degrees, scientific consensus tells us very many of us will not be safe," Giza Gaspar Martins, the Angolan chair of the Least Developed Countries negotiating group, said in a statement Saturday.

Limiting warming to 1.5 degrees instead of 2 degrees could potentially cut in half the projected 280 million who live on land that would eventually submerged by rising seas, according to Ben Strauss, a sea level researcher at Climate Central.

The talks were initially scheduled to end Friday. U.N. climate conferences often run over time, because of the high stakes and widely differing demands and economic concerns of countries as diverse as the United States and tiny Pacific island nations.

This accord is the first time all countries are expected to pitch in. The previous emissions treaty, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, included only rich countries and the U.S. never signed on.

More than 180 countries presented plans to cut or curb greenhouse gas emissions in the run-up to the conference. That was a major breakthrough for the climate talks, showing almost all countries were ready to be part of the new deal after years of stalemate.

But disputes arose in Paris over how to anchor those targets in a binding international pact, with China and other major developing countries insisting on different rules for rich and poor nations.

The U.S. resisted legally binding emissions targets because of opposition in a Republican-controlled Congress. Instead U.S. negotiators wanted robust transparency rules to make sure countries live up to their commitments. China pushed back, saying Western proposals were too "intrusive."

Sylvie Corbet, Seth Borenstein, Andy Drake and Matthew Lee in Le Bourget contributed to this report.



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