John Kerry: Paris Climate Deal Will Not Be Legally Binding

  • Date: 12/11/15
  • Demetri Sevastopulo and Pilita Clark, Financial Times

John Kerry, US secretary of state, has warned that December’s Paris climate change talks will not deliver a “treaty” that legally requires countries to cut their carbon emissions, exposing international divisions over how to enforce a deal.

The EU and other countries have long argued that the accord due to be reached next month should be an “international treaty” with legally binding measures to cut emissions. But in an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Kerry insisted the agreement was “definitively not going to be a treaty”.

He said it would contain measures that would drive a “significant amount of investment” towards a low-carbon global economy. But he stressed there were “not going to be legally binding reduction targets like Kyoto”, a reference to the 1997 Kyoto protocol, a UN climate treaty that had targets for cutting emissions that countries ratifying it were legally obliged to meet.

Delegates from 195 countries are due to finalise a new global climate accord in Paris that will replace the Kyoto treaty, which failed to stop emissions rising. The US signed but failed to ratify that treaty, largely because it did not cover China, now the world’s largest carbon polluter.

The Paris deal is supposed to cover all countries, but Mr Kerry’s comments underline the differences between the US and other nations over how to ensure it is robust enough to shift billions of dollars of investment away from fossil fuels and towards greener energy sources.

A European Commission spokeswoman on Wednesday said the commission and many nations “would like the Paris agreement to be in the form of a protocol or a treaty” which would represent “the strongest expression of political will and also for the future it provides predictability and durability”.

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