With one week to go before international climate talks in Paris, the United States' chief climate negotiator said he believes world leaders will forge a substantive deal to lessen the effects of climate change — even though key parties have been unable to even agree on whether any deal will be legally binding.
“We can get this done, and I think we will get this done, and I’m not going to think about the alternative,” Todd Stern, the U.S. State Department’s Special Envoy for Climate Change, said Tuesday during a webcast with reporters.
Stern’s comments came just days before representatives from nearly 200 countries convene in Paris to try finalizing a global climate change mitigation accord. President Barack Obama has pushed for a sweeping deal to encourage renewable energy sources, saying such a step could provide some economic stimulus while helping to safeguard the environment.
But some major disagreements remain between the key parties in the climate talks — particularly over whether the final deal will be legally binding. France has maintained that the talks need to end with a legally binding treaty, while the U.S. has balked at such strictures.
Stern defended a proposal for a hybrid approach that would include some legally binding elements. He had previously summarized the hybrid proposal, which was originally crafted by New Zealand government officials, in an October 2014 speech.
Under such a framework, “there would be a legally binding obligation to submit a schedule for reducing emissions, plus various legally binding provisions for accounting, reporting, review, periodic updating of the schedules, et cetera,” he said at the time. “But the content of the schedule itself would not be legally binding at an international level."
Stern reiterated his support for a hybrid structure Tuesday, arguing that it would “actually enhance ambition."
“We’re quite convinced there are many countries that would be inclined to put in a lower target than they were capable of if they were worried about the legally binding nature of the target themselves,” he said.