Limping to Paris
Officials Hedging Ahead of Climate Summit

We’re less than three weeks away from the start of the COP21 climate summit in Paris, and it seems the enormity of the task that’s now almost at hand is starting to dawn on officials. As Reuters reports, Sweden’s own environment minister is bracing for a slog when negotiators meet in France:

Negotiations to reach a climate change deal next month in Paris are likely to go down to the final moments with financing remaining one of the toughest subjects on which to reach agreement, senior Swedish officials said. […]

“A lot of ministers are not happy that the text is so full of brackets so close to the meeting,” Sweden’s Environment Minister Asa Romson told reporters late on Monday as ministers gathered for warm-up talks. […]

Asked about the issue of nations promising financing and not yet delivering while developing nations hold back waiting for the cash, Romson said it was clearly “not very helpful” for negotiators when promises were not fulfilled.

Moreover, Sweden’s own chief climate negotiator conceded that talks would likely run all the way through the end of the two week conference, and while these sorts of comments may be realistic (and, judging by the general lack of progress clarifying the working draft document, they almost certainly are), they also betray a lack of confidence in and hope for the whole Paris process. Finally, these statements are a way for leaders to manage expectations: The only way anyone will be able to call whatever Paris produces a success is by deflating expectations now. Any way you slice it, leading officials don’t seem to think Paris will see meaningful success.

Greens hoping for a binding global treaty should start steeling themselves for disappointment, because such a deal just isn’t in the cards. And, with disagreements over climate financing—that is, money paid by the developed world to the world’s poorer countries to help them adapt to and mitigate climate change—already casting a shadow over negotiations, there’s a chance Paris won’t even be able to produce a non-binding agreement.

For boosters of this process, it’s clear that the plan at this point is to hedge and equivocate as much as possible in the hopes of lowering the bar, so that they might have something to cheer five weeks from now.

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