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May 26, 2017

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UN talks to tame global warming enter crunch phase

LE BOURGET, France--U.N. talks aimed at saving mankind from the dire impacts of global warming enter their crunch phase Monday with ministers beginning a frenetic week of negotiations to seal a historic 195-nation agreement in Paris.

The envisaged accord seeks to revolutionize the world's energy industry by replacing coal, oil and gas with renewable sources that do not emit heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

The conference in the French capital crowns more than two decades of obstacle-strewn negotiations to curb climate change, which threatens to make Earth increasingly hostile to human existence.

Speaking before thousands of worshippers in the Vatican Sunday, Francis said he prayed that leaders would muster "the courage to keep as their guiding criterion the well-being of the entire human family."

The talks opened Nov. 30 with a record-breaking gathering of 150 world leaders who issued a chorus of warnings about mankind's fate if planet warming went unchecked.

"The future is one that we have the power to change right here, right now, but only if we rise to this moment," U.S. President Barack Obama told the summit.

Negotiators spent the rest of the week trying to address the many deep and complex divisions among countries with competing national interests — rows that have condemned previous U.N. efforts to failure.

Cautious Hopes

While none of the major arguments was resolved, negotiators did meet a Saturday deadline to produce a draft blueprint for the accord, showing enough compromise to offer hopes for cautious optimism.

Environment and foreign ministers take the blueprint up on Monday, seeking to eliminate hundreds of bracketed words or sentences that denote disagreement.

Small island nations most vulnerable to rising sea levels and stronger storms — so often railroaded by the powerful in the U.N. talks — said they were relieved their voices were being heard in Paris.

"We would have wished to be further along than we are at this point, but the text being forwarded so far reflects our key priorities," said Thoriq Ibrahim from the Maldives and chair of the Alliance of Small Island States.

China, after being accused of contributing to the spectacular failure of the last effort to forge a global climate pact in Copenhagen six years ago, offered encouraging words.

"We are very happy to have this progress. The political will is there from all parties," Chinese climate envoy Su Wei told reporters.

Still, all those directly involved, as well as environmental groups who follow the negotiations closely, emphasized success was not even close to being assured.

"Let's be frank: all the difficult political issues remain unresolved," European Climate and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete said on Saturday.

"Next week is the week of compromise."

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