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Is The Paris Climate Summit Doomed Before It Begins?

Walter Russell Mead, The American Interest

France is hosting a climate summit this December that’s been billed as the most important gathering on the issue yet, but the country’s leadership is apparently quite skeptical of the UN-led process.

French president François Hollande recently expressed alarm at the pitiful participation rate among members who have been charged with submitting national climate action plans (just 37 of 196 member states have so far submitted the required Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, or INDCs). Now, environment minister Ségolène Royal is going public with her own criticisms of the push to sign a Global Climate Treaty.

The FT reports:

“The procedure isn’t really suited to what we need for climate change,” Ms Royal told reporters in London on Thursday, saying negotiators had made little progress on the main text of the Paris agreement, despite working on it for months.

“If you tried to run a business like that it would have gone bust long ago,” said Ms Royal, a former candidate for the French presidency. “The main obstacle [to the Paris agreement] is the procedure.”

The draft text that negotiators hope to ratify in Paris this December has ballooned to more than 80 pages, as various stakeholders have pushed for delicately-worded clauses replete with redundancies and carefully-chosen jargon. Delegates will meet three times between now and the December summit to pare down that text, but with so many interests involved they’ll face a daunting task—this sort of thing has a natural tendency to grow as layers of bureaucratic technobabble accrue.

The UN hopes that those notionally required INDCs will provide assembled nations a better starting point from which to work towards international consensus, but the abysmal rate at which countries are submitting these plans is a discouraging sign, to say the least. UN climate chief Christiana Figueres, perhaps seeing the writing on the wall, has been hard at work hedging and downplayingexpectations for the Paris meeting.

This December’s summit is just the latest iteration of a decades-old movement to conjure up an international response to climate change, but the quest for a binding Global Climate Treaty has proven itself quixotic over the years.

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