Walking the Walk
Hollande Admits Paris Climate Treaty Has a Long Way to Go

When weary delegates finally eked out a climate agreement in Paris last December, greens around the world hailed their efforts as a turning point in human history. But not only was the treaty agreed last year in France eight months ago a watered-down version of what most environmentalists were hoping for, bereft of any enforcement mechanisms beyond “naming and shaming,” it was also just a draft, and it won’t go into effect until a significant majority of UN member nations accounting for a majority of global emissions signs on. To no one’s great surprise, that hasn’t happened yet, and in fact we’re nowhere close to meeting those base requirements. As French president Francois Hollande put it recently, the global community is still “far” from the goals set out in Paris. Reuters reports:

The agreement obligates states to take concrete measures to curb emissions that contribute to climate change. It takes effect once at least 55 nations accounting for at least 55 percent of global emissions ratify it. Only 23 countries, accounting for 1.08 percent of emissions, have done so.

“The immediate urgency is to ensure the (climate agreement) is put into action by year-end. That’s far from being achieved. I ask you to double your efforts to push countries where you reside to ratify the accord before Marrakesh,” [French President Francois Hollande] said, referring to the next round of U.N. climate talks in November. […]

“The United States and China have said they would do it this year and I visited Brasilia a couple of weeks back, and the Brazilians made it absolutely clear that they would, even in the midst of this big, big crisis in the land, they would sign off to Paris in September.

The U.S. and China have both said they’ll be signing the treaty before the end of the year, but it’s the ink that really matters here, and with such a potentially wide reaching bevy of restrictions on the line, there’s plenty that could go wrong politically as countries try to gin up domestic support for the deal.

Beyond national-level intransigence, geopolitics is also threatening to derail ratification efforts. Russia has already tried to pump the brakes on the post-summit process, agitating for a clarification of the actual rules (or, since the treaty has no way to punish nations that don’t follow through, perhaps we should say “rules”) the treaty would lay out before it signs. Moscow’s sentiment is surely one felt elsewhere, and it may be a legitimate gripe, but it’s also an opportunity for Putin to throw a wrench in the West’s plans, too convenient to pass up.

So the question then becomes: how long until this treaty actually goes on the books? A bloc of developing countries has been urged to continue to hold out under the logic that jumping on the bandwagon would rid them of their last vestige of leverage in future climate negotiations. If and when Washington and Beijing actually walk the walk, we’ll likely see more countries sign on, but momentum has certainly been slower than breathless greens expected in the afterglow of the conclusion of the Paris summit.

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