Signing Treaties
Russia Throws a Wrench in Paris Climate Ratification

The Paris climate summit last December produced a draft treaty (as watered down and unenforceable as it was), but the job isn’t done yet. The agreement—which will require countries to submit and periodically update national plans for reducing emissions—will only take effect if 55 countries representing at least 55 percent of global emissions sign onto it. The U.S. and China have both said they plan to sign the deal, and as the world’s top two emitters they account for 38 percent of global greenhouse gases, but a number of smaller developing countries have expressed hesitance on quickly joining in, lest they squander what little leverage they have in these international negotiations.

Now, as Reuters reports, a much bigger country is threatening to drag its feet in the ratification process—Russia:

Russia set itself at odds with a drive by China and the United States for rapid ratification of a global agreement to slow climate change when a senior official said on Wednesday that Moscow first wanted a clear set of rules. […]

Russia, the number three greenhouse gas emitter, questioned the plan in a rare sign of disagreement about implementation…[Russia] accounts for 7.5 percent [of global emissions]. Negotiating a detailed rule book for the 2015 Paris Agreement for shifting the world economy from fossil fuels could take years, in the worst case, delegates said at May 16-26 U.N. talks in Bonn on implementing the pact.

“The core issue to create the landscape conducive to joining is the development of the book of rules,” Oleg Shamanov, Russia’s chief climate negotiator, told Reuters. He said it took almost five years to produce rules for the U.N.’s 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which obliged about 40 industrialized nations to cut emissions. “We are hoping that it can be much faster this time,” he said.

Greens celebrated at the conclusion of the Paris climate summit as if their fight to create a robust Global Climate Treaty was over, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. For one, the document that conference produced looked nothing like the one they were pushing for in the months leading up to the event and, lacking any workable enforcement mechanisms, isn’t going to be worth much more than the paper its printed on—a kind of eco-version of the Kellogg-Briand Pact.

But now the delegates that negotiated well into those December nights in Paris have to return home and convince their national governments that the treaty is in their best interest. Leaders then have to negotiate domestic politics (we need look no further than our own country, where Donald Trump has already promised to renegotiate the treaty if elected) and a potentially skeptical public.

And don’t think for a second that countries’ decision to ratify the Paris deal will be made in a geopolitical vacuum—by dragging its feet on ratification and insisting on rule clarifications, the Kremlin conveniently gets to throw a wrench into an apparatus that’s been eagerly backed by most Western governments.

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