AP Interview: UN climate chief says talks on track, advises negotiators to rest and focus

LE BOURGET, France – The head of the U.N. climate change agency says high-intensity negotiations in Paris are on track so far and says her biggest concern now is that negotiators get enough rest to stay focused.

Christiana Figueres, chief of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, insisted that an international accord fighting global warming should include legally binding parts. She also said it’s impossible to quantify how much it will cost the world to clean up and protect people affected by climate change.

Five days into the talks “we are where we thought we could be,” Figueres told The Associated Press in an interview at the Paris talks, which are scheduled to end Dec. 11.

She said her greatest concern at this point is “that everyone remains focused, that everyone gets a least a minimum of sleep, that everyone remains healthy so that they can all do the work that needs to be done.”

Figueres said the final climate pact should have “teeth” to ensure that countries fulfil their promises to cut carbon emissions, which scientists say are warming the Earth and causing increasing extreme weather such as droughts and floods.

“It is going to be legally binding. It does not mean that every element is going to be equally binding in the same way. Some elements are probably going to be internationally legally binding and some are going to be domestically legally binding,” she said.

Many activists at the Paris conference are worried that the pact will not include commitments by rich countries to provide aid to poorer countries for the losses and damages they suffer because of climate change.

Figueres insisted there’s no way to put a figure on how much that will cost.

“The long-term, slow onset of climate change cannot be put into a numerical value … because we don’t really know how much damage can be done,” she said. “More importantly, human life does not have a monetary value.”


This version corrects the spelling of Figueres’ first name to Christiana.