Hollande Challenges Kerry’s Climate Talks Proviso

Hollande Challenges Kerry’s Climate Talks Proviso © Flickr/ Tambako The Jaguar

17:25 13.11.2015Get short URL

French President Francois Hollande has strongly rejected comments by US Secretary of State​ John Kerry, that the global climate accord due to be signed in Paris next month would not be a legally binding treaty.

He said it should be clear that the point of the UN Climate Change Conference will be to thrash out a legal accord.

“If the agreement is not legally binding, there won’t be an agreement, because that would mean it would be impossible to verify or control the undertakings that are made,” Mr Hollande said.

In an interview with the Financial Times on Wednesday, Mr Kerry was quoted as saying that he expected that there were “not going to be legally binding reduction targets like Kyoto.”

In referencing to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol — a UN climate treaty — Kerry made an oblique reminder of the past reluctance by the US to be legally bound to meeting targets for cutting emissions. The US did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol, with former President Bush claiming it would have “wrecked” the US economy.

Nearly two decades on, the US remains one of the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

The quick rejection of Mr Kerry’s assertions by President Hollande and the EU, whose climate commissioner, Miguel Arias Cañete, echoed Hollande’s statement, has exposed international divisions over how to enforce a deal.

Kerry’s French counterpart Laurent Fabius, insisted that the upcoming talks were not just going to be “hot air”, but also suggested that Mr Kerry was “confused” in dismissing the agreement’s legal scope.

The last attempt at a global treaty on reducing greenhouse gases was in Copenhagen in 2009, which ended in disappointment and frustration — a fact that is sure to haunt the upcoming proceedings in France.

Great Deal at Stake

The UN Environment Program estimates that if the world continues to burn fossil fuels at its current rate, then we could see the average global surface temperature increase by around 3 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. A recent report by the World Bank suggests that this could push an extra 100 million people into poverty through climate change related shocks such as failing crops, desertification and flooding.

After Copenhagen there is a great deal of expectation over whether developing and developed nations will be able to sign off on a mutually acceptable agreement.

Huge hurdles remain, including the assertion by China and India — the world’s first and third biggest greenhouse gas emitters — that developed nations have a moral responsibility to economically subsidize the developing world for any emissions caps. They’re calling for a US$100bn a year by 2020.

Concurrently, the US has warned that any agreement without stringent restrictions for big polluters such as India and China would be deeply flawed.

The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris is due to take place from 30 November — 11 December 2015. The Paris document is expected to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which has failed to stop emissions rising.

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