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Tensions Build Over Whether Paris Climate Deal Is Binding

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Associated Press

France’s leadership is bristling at U.S. resistance to making a global climate accord under negotiation in Paris next month legally binding.

French President Francois Hollande, whose country is hosting U.N. climate talks Nov. 30-Dec. 11, told reporters in Malta on Thursday that “if the deal is not legally binding, there is no accord, because that would mean it’s not possible to verify or control commitments that are made.”

He was responding to comments by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to the Financial Times saying an eventual agreement would have no legally binding targets.

The deal being negotiated in Paris would be the first asking all countries to reduce emissions. Some 150 countries have already submitted targets for cuts of greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.

So far those targets are voluntary, but European negotiators want to make cuts obligatory. The Obama administration has resisted, because it would need to submit internationally binding targets to a skeptical Senate for approval.

Negotiators are discussing compromise options, such as having parts of the agreement legally binding but not the emissions targets, which would require a green light from the U.S. Senate. Republic lawmakers who control the Senate strongly oppose Obama’s environmental policies, calling them detrimental to economic growth and job creation.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Kerry’s comments were unfortunate, but alluded Thursday to potential middle ground.

“We have to bear in mind that the United States has a specific problem, which is the position of its Congress,” he said.

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