France’s climate envoy had some cautionary words for the developed world this week, telling Reuters that the world’s developing nations would need to see concrete commitments, and not just reassuring words, in order to sign off on any sort of Global Climate Treaty:
Countries suffering the worst effects of climate change will not be content with empty promises at the Paris summit in December and the meeting could end in failure unless they are satisfied, President Francois Hollande’s envoy has warned. […]
…Nicolas Hulot, Hollande’s Special Envoy for the Protection of the Planet, said countries most at risk from rising sea levels and extreme weather also want firm commitments from richer countries to fund efforts to limit global warming.
“I have warned everyone. Words will not be enough. Promises will also not be enough,” he said in his office across the road from the Elysee palace.
Hulot is exactly right. Climate change’s effects are as varied as they are far-reaching, but there are essentially two sides entering negotiations in Paris this December: the developed and the developing world. The former is responsible for most of the emissions up to this point and is best insulated from the effects those emissions are producing. The latter is going to be responsible for most of the emissions going forward (though as we’ve said before, there’s no reason it has to follow the same development model the West trail-blazed, involving energy-intensive industrialization before the transition to an information economy), and is most vulnerable to the negative consequences scientists promise climate change is poised to unleash.
The disparity between responsibilities for and exposure to climate change produced a commitment from the world’s rich countries to pay into a $100 billion climate fund, but so far that purse remains far lighter than promised. It’s in that context that Hulot is telling Reuters that “[i]f the nations that are suffering the most are not reassured, we could be heading towards a clash at the conference.” The French envoy warned that “[c]ountries that are suffering the negative consequences of climate change will no longer feed on promises because they doubt the sincerity of richer nations to honor those promises.”
A fog of mistrust will hang over the Paris climate summit—hardly the kind of atmosphere conducive to producing a lasting, binding Global Climate Treaty.