Delegates from all over the world will descend on Paris at the end of this year to try and succeed at what every previous attempt has failed: the creation of a Global Climate Treaty (GCT). To that end, the United Nations asked member nations to submit plans called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) detailing the ways in which governments would work to mitigate climate change in the coming years. It’s a sensible step—have nations develop their own strategies before attempting to conjure up some international consensus—but the UN is far, far behind schedule. Reuters reports:
…French President Francois Hollande said he was worried about a lack of progress towards a climate deal in the French capital…So far, just 37 of 196 U.N. member states have submitted plans to the United Nations, outlining their actions to slow global warming beyond 2020.
We’re nearly six months away from the start of what greens are hailing as a historically important climate change conference, and less than 19 percent of the countries involved have provided the kind of transparent policy plans the UN believes are necessary for the GCT. The UN’s climate chief Christiana Figueres has worked hard in recent weeks to lower expectations for the Paris summit, but recently downplayed the significance of just 37 member states submitting INDCs, arguing that “governments are actually very well on track” and that “there is no doubt that this agreement will be forged in Paris.”
Perhaps Figueres is right, and we’re in for a surprise this December. It’s possible that the assembled parties could push through some sort of deal in Paris, but it certainly won’t resemble the kind of document greens seem to think is necessary to stave off the kinds of catastrophic climate change they say is right around the corner. Whatever we do get is certain to lack the kinds of necessary enforcement mechanisms to make a GCT worthwhile, setting us up for a Kellogg-Briand pact redux.
And after all the work the UN’s climate leadership has done to hedge the goals of the summit, it’s a bit hard to credit this optimism. If member states can’t prepare for this meeting at the national level, why should we expect anything more than a fiasco when they take this on at the much thornier international level?