COP 21 – The Leadership Factor – Cautious Optimism

The reductions in carbon emissions reported in the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions submitted by the COP 21 countries are far short of what is required.   To stay within 2°C of warming, COP 21 countries must promise greater reductions.

For increased reductions there must be momentum towards an effective agreement.  Momentum requires on-the-ground leadership.

Two individuals could be potential leaders:  President Hollande of France, the host nation, who presumably can count on the support of the European Union, and President Obama of the United States.

President Hollande is in a difficult situation of having to fight terrorism.  For security reasons he and his Cabinet have already curtailed climate marches that are an important demonstration of civil support.

Paris is one of the most internationally minded cities in the world.  So it is not surprising that Hollande and his Minister of Foreign affairs have insisted that any Agreement reached at COP 21 must be legally binding, which clearly means an international treaty.

That insistence creates problems for President Obama: the US Senate must approve any climate change treaty by at least a two-thirds vote. The Republican-controlled Senate opposes Obama’s climate change measures as a matter of course, and has the votes to block approval of any treaty.    Two states, Texas (think Gulf oil refineries) and West Virginia (think coal) have written John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, claiming that Obama has no authority to commit the US to any climate change laws.

Despite political opposition at home, President Obama is unwavering in his emphasis that COP 21 must result in a comprehensive and complete agreement. He has encouraged participating nations not to be intimidated by the recent terrorist attacks.  His single-mindedness in supporting legal measures to reduce Climate Change in the US suggests that he might yet be the leader that COP needs.

Still there is a problem. The US INDC’s, like Canada’s, are well short of a fair share. We don’t criticize Obama who has had to fight for domestic recognition of the need for reductions, but the world’s largest emitter has to assume a fair share of the responsibility.

Although no longer a climate-change laggard, Canada will not be a leader.  At best, Canada coming in from the cold could provide some impetus to countries who, like Canada, once were laggards.

As stated, Canada’s commitment is far too low.  Canada will give general assurances that the Federal Government and the Provinces will come up with more significant reductions early next year. These assurances must be accompanied by programs that have a reasonable chance of achieving these objectives.

Still, the actions of Canada in the international climate change sphere is lamentable.  Successive Liberal Governments did nothing to meet Kyoto targets.  The Federal Conservative Government did little to meet Copenhagen Targets to which it had agreed and withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol, the only country to do so.

We revert to our previous blog:  the best we can be is cautiously optimistic.

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