OTTAWA - Months of informal discussions among climate negotiators from more than 20 countries suggest there's a significant international deal to be had on climate change later this year in Paris.
That's the conclusion of two veteran negotiators who helped facilitate the talks that included representatives of Brazil, China, Russia, the United States, Germany, Norway, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.
"We have the makings of a good deal in Paris," Valli Moosa of South Africa said Wednesday in a conference call with reporters.
"The broad outlines of the deal are becoming quite clear," added Norwegian Harald Dovland, who co-authored with Moosa a report on the talks.
Their report, released by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, says the emerging climate treaty appears to respect each country's different starting point but would commit every signatory to cutting emissions and tracking their efforts through common reporting requirements.
Canadian officials were not invited to participate in the eight rounds of informal discussions hosted by the centre between March 2014 and May of this year, but that doesn't mean Canada wasn't discussed.
"The Canadian example is often cited as an illustration that a binding obligation to achieve a target does not necessarily mean that that target is achieved," said Elliot Diringer, a former White House spokesman who serves as the executive vice-president of the Virginia-based climate centre.
The informal negotiations suggest binding emissions targets won't be part of a Paris deal next December, but rather the agreement will aim for the broadest possible participation and transparency in measuring emissions cuts.
The goal, said Moosa, appears to be reaching an agreement that has "the maximum positive impact on the problem."
He and Dovland both noted the serious and "constructive spirit" of the informal talks.
"I've been involved in all kinds of negotiations for many, many years and you can tell when people are trying to find a solution and you can tell when people are trying to highlight and stimulate disagreement," said Moosa.
Countries representing more than 55 per cent of global emissions have already submitted their greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, known as INDCs, to the United Nations-based Paris conference organizers.
Canada, which formally backed out of the original 1998 Kyoto Protocol in 2011, announced in May that it aims to cut emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 — even though the country is not on track to meet its current 2020 goal of a 17 per cent reduction, set at Copenhagen in 2009.
The Harper government has not released any detailed plan of new measures it will take to achieve the 2030 target, and appears to be relying heavily upon provincial actions.
Provincial and territorial leaders are about to start two days of meetings in St. John's with climate change and a national energy strategy on the agenda.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has always insisted all major international emitters must be included in any global climate treaty.
Moosa said the bilateral climate deal announced between the United States and China last November "should not be under-estimated" and has helped create what he called a "unique scenario" that did not exist prior to the Kyoto and Copenhagen climate conferences.
The informal talks also suggest that global economic challenges may not necessarily derail national ambitions on climate, said Moosa, although international financing plans for climate mitigation may suffer.
More fundamentally, said Moosa, a boom in global energy innovation is leading countries to recognize that energy efficiency, low carbon technologies and eliminating energy-intensive industrial processes and buildings actually reduce economic costs.
"That's a big realization," he said. "That's the biggest thing globally that's driving the move toward decarbonization."
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