The Week That Was: December 26, 2015 – Brought to You by www.SEPP.org
THIS WEEK: By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project
COP-21 – Smoke and Mirrors: The Conference of Parties (COP-21) of the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) ended with significant changes to the earlier, to be agreed upon, agreement with the changes in a few small words. As Paul Homewood recognized the word “shall” was changed to “should” in the paragraph “Developed country Parties
shall should continue taking the lead by undertaking economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets. Homewood suspected that the US delegates (probably under instructions from the White House) demanded the change. The issue was making the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions reduction of the document legally binding. Making emissions reductions legally binding on the US would require Senate approval while the term “should” is not legally binding. President Obama has not consulted with Congress on the “Nationally Determined Contributions.” Contrary to the name, these contributions were decided by the administration, not nationally, and making them legally binding would require approval of two-thirds of the Senate present. The Administration’s game-playing faced harsh reality.
According to an article by Nitin Sethi, of the Business Standard out of India, the US Administration did not shoulder the burden of the harsh reality, but placed the burden on delegates from the European Union. The article opens with:
“If there was one overarching imprint on the Paris climate change negotiations, it was of the diplomatic heft that the US enjoys. The last hours of the talks, when the US was faced with the challenge of removing a phrase it didn’t like in the final agreement, it was left to the European Union to walk across the aisle to convince everyone to not oppose the changes the US demanded. The European Union, once hailed as the climate change leader of the world, was canvassing the developing country bloc to accept an agreement that was discordantly against its own non-negotiable position wanting a strict legally-binding protocol and not a loosely-bound agreement that the Paris outcome eventually became.