The EU May Have Just Derailed Obama’s Global Warming Plans

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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The European Union asserted Thursday that the deal reached this December at the Paris climate summit will be legally binding, contradicting direct statements from Secretary of State John Kerry and adding to the confusion over a climate agreement President Obama wants to keep out of Congress.

Kerry said Wednesday that any deal reached in Paris this December will not be a legally binding treaty like 1997’s Kyoto Protocol, which would keep any climate agreement out of the purview of Congress where Obama would have little chance of securing passage. The EU came out strongly against Kerry’s claim Thursday, stressing the importance of a strong international legal consensus on climate policy, reports The Guardian.

“The Paris agreement must be an international legally binding agreement,” said a spokeswoman for Miguel Arias Cañete, the EU’s climate commissioner. “The title of the agreement is yet to be decided, but it will not affect its legally binding form.”

The French foreign minister Laurent Fabius was another to add his voice to the chorus advocating for a binding climate deal, saying that Kerry must just be “confused.” Fabius promised this round of talks would be more than “hot air” and yield a concrete international agreement on emission reductions, reports Reuters.

“Jurists will discuss the legal nature of an accord on whether it should be termed as a treaty or an international agreement,” said Fabius. “But the fact that a certain number of dispositions should have a practical effect and be legally binding is obvious so let’s not confuse things, which is perhaps what Mr. Kerry has done.”

The Obama Administration is hoping for a deal during December’s talks but is keen to avoid congressional scrutiny, where Republican majorities hostile to the president’s green agenda are likely to block any agreement. Republicans have already accused Obama of trying to sidestep Congress by pushing for an agreement focused on agreed emission reduction targets rather than legally binding measures, according to The Financial Times.

Debate among participating nations is reaching a breaking point, with contradictory statements coming out of many of the countries involved. The EU wants a review process they call a “facilitative regime” which would have the power to enforce emission reductions by threatening sanctions, according to The Guardian.

“We don’t need a treaty in Paris,” said Moroccan environment minister Hakima el Haite, echoing U.S. sentiment. “We need a universal agreement in which everyone agrees and commits – and is engaged to respect commitments and contributions. That is what we are working for.”

Fabius acknowledged the domestic political reality Obama will face with a climate treaty, but doubled down on his belief that the summit will yield legally binding results.

“This is not a political discussion,” said the French foreign minister Thursday. “This is a real accord with facts.”

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