Negotiators from 195 nations agreed on a draft Saturday for a pact to save mankind from disastrous global warming, raising hopes that decades of arguments will finally end with a historic deal in Paris.
The planned pact would aim to break the world's dependence on fossil fuels, slashing the greenhouse gas emissions from burning oil, coal & gas that are causing temperatures to rise dangerously.
UN negotiations dating back to the early 1990s have failed to forge unity between rich & poor nations, & the Paris talks are being described as the "last, best chance" to save mankind.
They began on Monday with a gathering of 150 world leaders, & the next crucial phase ended Saturday with the adoption of a draft text of an agreement.
The dense 48-page document agrees on the need for urgent action to combat climate change, yet contains wide gaps on the most contentious issues.
Negotiators finalised the draft after an often tense week of talks in Le Bourget on the northern outskirts of Paris.
And while ministers still need to resolve many extremely contentious points during a scheduled five days of talks starting Monday, delegates said they felt the foundations had been laid for success.
"While we are talking, greenhouse gases are being emitted & at some point it becomes irreversible. So we must succeed," said French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, presiding over the talks.
"We are talking approximately life itself."
After the draft was adopted to loud applause, South African negotiator Nozipho Mxakato-Diseko drew on her nation's revered democracy icon in a bid to inspire others.
"In the words of Nelson Mandela, it always seems impossible until it is done," she said.
– Exciting time in history –
More than 50 well-known figures, from US actor Sean Penn to Chinese internet tycoon Jack Ma, moreover gathered at the conference Saturday to assist build momentum.
"Perhaps this is the most thrilling time in human history," Penn told a special event at the conference.
"Those illusions of having too many difficult choices have always created chaos. Now we live in a time where there are no choices."
Scientists warn our planet will become increasingly hostile for mankind as it warms, with rising sea levels that will consume islands & eat away at populated coasts, as well as catastrophic storms & droughts.
Small island nations vulnerable to rising sea levels, which are often railroaded by the powerful in the climate talks, moreover expressed cautious optimism approximately the draft agreement.
"We would have wished to be further along than we are at this point, yet the text being forwarded so far reflects our key priorities," said Thoriq Ibrahim from the Maldives.
– No guarantees –
But no one in Le Bourget is under the illusion that a December 11 deal is guaranteed.
"Let's be frank: all the difficult political issues remain unresolved," European Climate & Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete said. "Next week is the week of compromise."
One reason for optimism in Paris has been most countries' submission of voluntary plans to curb their emissions from 2020, when the pact would come into force.
Scientists say these pledges, if fulfilled, would still fall far short of what is needed to cap warming at 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) below pre-Industrial Revolution levels.
But they have taken the world away from a trajectory of even more dangerous warming.
Now, though, there is deep disagreement on how to structure a review process for these national plans.
Poorer countries are demanding finance to pay for the costly shift to renewable technologies, as well as to cope with the impact of climate change.
But developing nations say rich nations are refusing to honour previous commitments to muster 100 billion euros a year from 2020 to finance the shift to clean energy & shore up climate defences.
Marshall Islands negotiator Tony de Brun said those commitments were now tainted with "creative accounting".
"This has continued to scratch away at the bonds of trust & so our partners need to quickly put their finance card on the table," he said.