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U.N. Brokers Global Effort To Rein In Greenhouse Gas Emissions


The United Nations headquarters in Manhattan has an impressive line of flags from all different countries flying outside. On Monday, it also had a big banner that said simply climate. The U.N. is trying to broker a new global deal to rein in greenhouse gas emissions by the end of this year. But when diplomats gathered in New York yesterday, it was clear that the goal itself is endangered, as NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce reports.

NELL GREENFIELDBOYCE, BYLINE: The U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke before a huge meeting hall filled with high-level representatives from all around the world.


BAN KI-MOON: Ladies and gentlemen, in many ways, the stars are aligned as never before.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: He said major powers, like the U.S. and China, want ambitious action on climate change. The pope has weighed in with moral arguments, and yet, he said the pace of the negotiations is slow.


KI-MOON: It's like a snail's - moving snail's pace. The key political issues are still on the table.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: He said there's just 10 more days of official negotiation sessions scheduled between now and the major summit in Paris at the end of the year. That summit is supposed to produce a final deal, one that will get all nations, rich and poor, to commit to the effort to fight climate change.


KI-MOON: Now is when true negotiation needed from the highest levels.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: After his plea for urgency, the delegates heard actor Morgan Freeman narrating a short film called "What's Possible," which showed on the hall's big screen. It described a future when, quote, "the sea level will stop rising and species will stop dying."


MORGAN FREEMAN: The question is how do we get to that day from where we are today?

GREENFIELDBOYCE: Part of the answer is money. Christiana Figueres is the U.N.'s climate chief.


CHRISTIANA FIGUERES: There is no doubt that financing is the most crucial component yet to be clarified.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: The world's rich nations have said they'll give money to poorer ones - $100 billion a year by 2020 - to help them adapt to climate change and to reduce their emissions. As country after country stood up to give a five-minute speech, I stepped into the hallway to talk with Andrew Steer. He's from a nonprofit called the World Resources Institute, and he's been watching U.N. climate negotiations since 1992. I asked him, what's the point of a meeting like this one?

ANDREW STEER: Well, OK, it's a marathon, not a sprint, but we are approaching a very crucial stage.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: He said this meeting let ministers listen to each other in public.

STEER: But more important, to talk to each other in private to really think through just how ambitious we can be in Paris in December.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: As we stood there, the speeches continued and guides walked past us, leading groups of tourists through the building. Nell Greenfieldboyce, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Nell Greenfieldboyce is a NPR science correspondent.