by Oli Clay
The best-case scenario for Paris talks is progress on a deal.
But a “reconciliation agreement” between the US and China – to be presented at the Paris conference – still presents both nations with significant hurdles.
Every year about 2 million barrels of oil are spilled into the ocean, about 1,000 of them ending up back onshore. It will take decades for those spills to repair the damage, and people who live or work near them can expect to live with the effects for years.
France and the US, neither of which has ever met a binding treaty on global warming, agreed to be more ambitious on climate change in April 2014.
Paris would mark the first time these two nations, which are the world’s largest polluters and leading greenhouse gas emitters, put their differences aside and signed a binding agreement, one that was agreed to by around 180 nations.
Of those nations, all but 12 have committed to a legally binding international agreement to cut emissions.
However, once negotiators enter the talks in November they are tasked with developing a “reconciliation agreement”, one that aims to lay out a roadmap for the Paris agreement.
Although that agreement is only a draft document, it represents a diplomatic win for both countries.
Why it matters
The US was a strong backer of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. President Barack Obama approved a cap-and-trade system that would cut greenhouse gas emissions in the US – a leading contributor to global warming – while European Union states agreed to a plan for “binding” emission reductions.
It was agreed that the US would commit to curbing its greenhouse gas emissions by 28% by 2025. However, the president promised that his country would not be a “carbon policeman”.
China has similar ambitions – it wants to cap its emissions by 2030 at its current rate of growth.
If reached, the Paris agreement will serve as a defining moment for the next phase of global climate change negotiations. But the US has repeatedly clashed with China over climate change.
The Trump administration has announced plans to scrap Obama’s Clean Power Plan and may remove its green investments through the US Environmental Protection Agency.
According to Mandy Smith Barnard, chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee for the US House of Representatives, climate change is a “non-negotiable” issue for Trump:
“He doesn’t do well with binders, he has never been a scholar on things like climate change and he has never been that much of a slow-change kind of person.
“So I don’t think he is going to be a major mover on that issue.”
At this stage it’s unclear what kind of ambition the US will offer at the conference in Paris, or if a reconciliation agreement will be agreed. However, if Paris is successful in its goal to establish a framework for the Paris agreement, it’s safe to say that the world will not be back to square one on global warming after November.
Or, if it is not, any talks after Paris will need to be meaningful.