KATOWICE, Poland —Negotiators from nearly 200 nations drew close to a deal Friday that would nudge the world toward stronger targets for reducing emissions and enshrine a clearer set of rules for how to get there.

But even amid the glimmers of progress at this year’s climate summit, where more than 25,000 people have gathered in the heart of Poland’s coal mining region, there was a deeper undercurrent of dismay. The world’s best efforts, some participants concluded after two weeks of nonstop talks, would not nearly match the urgency of a problem that scientists have said will bring catastrophic consequences without major action over the next 12 years.

“Climate change is not something in our future. It’s happening to us now,” said Mohamed Nasheed, former president of the Maldives and chief of the island nation’s negotiating team here. “We will not survive if business goes as usual.”

Despite the lingering questions about the world’s overall resolve, Friday brought signs that the gridlock that has defined much of these talks was beginning to ease. Delegates worked through the night, scrambling to produce the latest draft of a detailed “rule book” that will serve as a road map for how countries collectively implement the 2015 Paris climate accord.

The drafts released Friday morning, which stretched hundreds of pages, showed that diplomats had apparently reached key compromises. Those included language that would recognize the importance of an October U.N. report finding that the world would need to take “unprecedented” action by 2030 to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change.

The report, produced by the nearly 100 scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, set an increase in temperatures of 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels as the outer limit of what the world can tolerate without cataclysmic results. (The planet has already warmed by 1 degree.) The U.S. delegation – which has been engaged in the talks, despite President Trump’s vow to withdraw the United States from the Paris agreement – had blocked acceptance of the report over the weekend.

“There is no documented historic precedent” for the sweeping changes to energy, transportation and other sectors that would be necessary to hold warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, the scientists said, citing the need for a “rapid and far-reaching” transformation of human civilization. But in Poland, the IPCC’s findings on what the world would need to do to hold off the worst impacts of climate change collided with the reality of a bureaucratic process that requires consensus among nearly 200 nations. It was never designed to be nimble.

Instead of dramatic new commitments, diplomats were left to wrestle with what to outsiders may seem like semantics, arguing about whether to “welcome” or “note” or “recognize the role” of the report.

“You can’t negotiate with the laws of physics,” said Nasheed, who called the debate over how to acknowledge the report “madness.”


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