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As Climate Talks Wrap Up, Attendees' Agendas Are On The Line


This story tells us what it feels like to finish a global deal on climate change. In a word, the feeling is tired. Negotiators have been racing to complete the agreement in Paris. It's described as an effort, however limited, to head off the very worst effects of climate change around the world. Our colleague Christopher Joyce reports that negotiators have worked out the deal but have not formally completed it. And our colleague Ari Shapiro of NPR's All Things Considered reports this is a trial of endurance.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: I'm speaking quietly because this is an area where people are sleeping. You can come up here any hour and find people who have basically been working through the night, through the day, and are now just passed out on these big low couches with pillows.

SIMON ROGER: I'm Simon Roger, Simon Roger from the French daily, Le Monde.

SHAPIRO: And you're lying here on this big couch.

ROGER: Yes, I'm lying because it's a very comfortable place and more seriously because I spent most of my night with the French presidency waiting for some decision, so...

SHAPIRO: So you didn't sleep last night.

ROGER: I sleep more or less one hour.

SHAPIRO: Two weeks in, this is what the final stretch of the Climate Summit looks like, bleary-eyed, strung out and tense.

JACK KAFWANKA: We're very nervous.

SHAPIRO: Jack Kafwanka is an environmental activist from Zambia. He's sitting at a kiosk where you charge your phone by pedaling a bicycle.

Does the exercise help calm your nerves?

KAFWANKA: It helps with the workout but not calming my nerves.

SHAPIRO: Everyone here has something different on the line, and people are biting their nails to see what will be in the final document.

Can you tell us a little bit about this?

This is Aurora, a two-story polar bear. She turns her head, rolls her eyes, and sniffs the air. Greenpeace brought her in to motivate negotiators in the final push. Joanna Mills from Greenpeace says the bear has a good track record.

JOANNA MILLS: She stood outside the headquarters of Shell in London for a month as a protest against Shell's drilling in the Arctic.

SHAPIRO: Will you...

MILLS: And Shell pulled out.

SHAPIRO: Oh, that's true. Shell did pull out of the Arctic.

MILLS: So it's Aurora 1, Shell nil. That's pretty good.

SHAPIRO: Lorenzo Gamba has seen a big change since the summit entered its last lap.

LORENZO GAMBA: I'm in charge of the coffee shop.

SHAPIRO: People have been rolling in later each morning.

GAMBA: But also they are so desperate when we close the shop at 6 p.m. So I think we have to adjust our schedules.

SHAPIRO: Is this your first Climate Summit?


SHAPIRO: How do you feel about it? What do you think?

GAMBA: I feel like I have my mission as well, like to provide coffee for the, you know, for those people. Like, they need this kind of stimulus to make the right decision, I hope, yeah.

JOHN HULTBERG: I'm definitely drinking more coffee. Although as a Swede, I always drink a lot of coffee.

SHAPIRO: Johan Hultberg is one of the delegates, a member of parliament from Sweden. After endless negotiations, he is sick of debates over brackets and commas, shalls versus shoulds.

HULTBERG: Well, of course. Everyone is.

SHAPIRO: But he says the finish line is hardly the end of the debate.

HULTBERG: It's more the beginning. So there will be more negotiation, more brackets.

SHAPIRO: But that will not be in Paris. I'm Ari Shapiro at the U.N. Climate Summit. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.