The entire world is expecting the results of the Paris Climate Conference - will a global treaty finally be reached, or will it be another round of discussions and promises with no pro-active solutions? The French Foreign minister believes that if we are to reach a climate deal, it has to be phrased in such a way that it doesn't require approval from the US Congress. Laurent Fabius said:
“We know the politics in the US. Whether we like it or not, if it comes to the Congress, they will refuse.”
This might come a bit harsh, but I actually feel like Fabius has done his homework. The political leaders of the US seem to significantly lag behind European leaders in terms of addressing climate change. Despite official reports showing that climate change is a current reality and despite the fact that there is basically a scientific consensus at this point, American leaders are still in denial, for one reason or another. In January, James Inhofe, the veteran climate denier in the Senate and chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee went as far as to say that only God can cause climate change. Inhofe also brought a snowball to Senate, to "disprove" climate change.
You might think that Inhofe is in the minority, or that he's an exception, but his views are shared by many senators and congressmen. The US lawmakers in charge of NASA and environmental funding don’t understand climate science, and they even went as far as to ask NASA to stop studying the Earth. At this point, it seems safe to say that any measure which involves reducing greenhouse gas emissions won't pass Congress - which is why Fabius' statement is spot on.
He will host the UN climate summit in Paris in December where the new agreement is supposed to be adopted, and I'm glad to see he took this responsibility seriously and isn't afraid to speak bluntly. Even as the US and China agreed to negotiate a common agreement, the US seems a slow giant, reluctant to make any significant reforms in terms of emissions; meanwhile, the EU and small island nations push forth, constantly demanding a global deal.
Amjad Abdulla, a Maldives delegate who is the chief negotiator for the small-island group said:
“I think it’s important that we get everyone on board. We are still looking into options”. Island states are greatly threatened by rising sea levels, as are many coastal areas of the world.
Some parties declared themselves pessimistic, feeling that the 2C objective (limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial times) will be abandoned.
“Paris will be a funeral without a corpse,” said David Victor, a professor of international relations at the University of California, San Diego, who predicts the 2C goal will slip away despite insistence by many governments that is still alive.
Others are more optimistic, Peruvian environment minister, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, said he was “completely sure that we will have an agreement in Paris”, despite the complex situation in the US. Either way, the US seems to be the key actor. The EU is willing, developing states are willing, China will at least negotiate, so it all stands on the US. Will they accept responsibility and move for a more sustainable future, or will it simply be business as usual? We'll know in December.