“If there is not a binding accord, there will not be an accord,” French President Francois Hollande said in Malta while attending a European Union-Africa summit.
A day earlier, US Secretary of State John Kerry made it clear the United States would not sign a deal in which countries were legally obliged to cut greenhouse-gas emissions. The Paris agreement, he told the Financial Times, was “definitively not going to be a treaty … They’re not going to be legally binding reduction targets like Kyoto or something.”
The 1997 Kyoto Protocol – which Washington signed in 1998 but never ratified – committed rich nations to limiting emissions, backed by tough compliance provisions. Defining the exact legal status of the Paris pact, and which provisions – if any – would be legally binding, is one of the toughest issues to be settled in the long-running climate talks.
Earlier Thursday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, also in Malta, described his US counterpart’s remarks as “unfortunate”. “We can discuss the legal status of the agreement,” said Fabius, who had met Kerry the previous day. “But it is obvious that a certain number of provisions must have practical effect,” he said.
The UN Conference of Parties (COP21), opening with more than 115 heads of state and government in the French capital on Nov 30, aims to secure a deal to stave off catastrophic climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels. The draft accord being negotiated is divided into a core “agreement”, laying out the broad objectives for CO2 reduction and financial aid for developing nations, and “decisions” spelling out how to achieve them.
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