Build Me Up Buttercup
Momentum Stalling for Paris Climate Summit

We’re just seven months away from a “historic” meeting on climate change in Paris, a summit that’s being billed as the most important iteration in a series that’s been more characterized by their regularity than by productivity—and already we’re seeing worrying signs. Greens are pegging their Global Climate Treaty hopes—errant though they might be—on this meeting, but the UN’s top climate official has worked to lower expectations for Paris. Now, as Reuters reports, French president Francois Hollande is adding his own voice to the dismayed chorus:

Hollande said on Wednesday that only 37 of 196 U.N. member states had so far submitted plans to the United Nations outlining their actions to slow global warming beyond 2020. The plans are meant to be the building blocks for a deal in Paris.

“I note and I am concerned that at the moment I am speaking there are only 37 submissions,” Hollande told the Paris Business and Climate conference, where global chief executives are discussing how industry can help fight climate change.

Hollande hinted that securing a GCT would be something of a miracle, and he’s right. The divide between the developing and developed world over who is responsible for what, and who should do what today, is enormous. Countries ultimately act in their own self-interests, and when it comes to climate change those are so thorny and varied as to scupper any attempt to unify international action under a single treaty. And even if, by some miracle, the delegates assembled manage to produce a climate treaty, there’s virtually no chance it will include an enforcement mechanism—the U.S. Congress, for one, would veto any such formulation. Lacking that, the GCT would be little more than a modern-day Kellogg-Briand pact.

Environmentalists eager for international action on climate change have built this Paris summit up, in both their own minds and in the media, as the make-or-break moment for the planet. But if those officials closest to its preparation are any indication, greens are setting themselves up for disappointment.

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