This week France and Germany suggested that rich nations should collectively guarantee deep cuts in GHG by 2020. That stance is nothing new. But the flexibility suggested on the pathway to such collective cuts certainly is a huge step forward in attitudes regarding climate change negotiations.
The Paris meeting held this past week is one of three gatherings of 17 key nations (among them, China, France, Germany, India, Russia, and the USA) in the climate change debate, just ahead of a pivotal UN climate change summit in Copenhagen this December. These 17 nations, which met in Paris, emit 80 percent of the world GHGs, mainly from burning fossil fuels.
As December approaches, French Environment Minister, Jean-Louis Borloo, recognized on the first day of the conference, “there can be more flexibility among us.” He said that France and Germany see no reason why developing nations can not collectively sign up to cut emissions by 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020. Borloo went on to say that a collective goal would undercut criticism by newly industrialized countries, like China and India, over inaction by developed nations. German Environment Minister, Sigmar Gabriel, added, “the longer it takes for industrialized nations to have a common position, the longer we will have to wait until China and India move [on climate change].”
In this French-German “suggestion” flexibility became a sort of framework as the Paris conference progressed throughout the week. For example, countries, like the USA, which have said that they cannot reach such steep goals by 2020, could contribute to a collective pact in different ways, such as financing development of green technologies. Borloo praised the pace in reaching agreement over a “green-fund” of approximately 100 Billion USD per year to help developing countries limit pollution and develop adaptation plans for unavoidable climate change.
Even though the spirit remained positive throughout the conference, there was some criticism of how certain countries are dealing with the issue of climate change. Notably, U.N. Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, said that he wanted Washington to do more. The Obama administration has suggested a 14-15 percent reduction in GHG emissions from 2005 levels by 2020. Legislation now facing the U.S. Congress would reduce these emissions by 20 percent by 2020.
A main focus of the Copenhagen Climate Congress this past March was to bring consensus to the concentration levels of CO2 at which the world must stabilize in the coming years. During the Paris Conference, Barolo did not talk much about whether progress had been made on the critical issue of the size of GHG emission cuts that scientists say are vital to reducing climate change impacts. But, the idea that change, no matter the level of political flexibility required, must take place.
“The world’s destiny will probably be at stake in Copenhagen,” Borloo said. “Copenhagen is not a retrograde vision; it’s not the start of negative [economic] growth, but a new start for strong, sustainable, sober carbon development.”
We will see how attitudes progress during the next meeting in June in Mexico.