Europe - US Split on National Emission Reduction Counting Could Threaten Post-Kyoto Agreement

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"Progress of America" by Domenico Tojetti: Wikipedia.

Just what we didn't want to hear: The Guardian reports that it has learned of a new split between European nations and the United States on aspects of the post-Kyoto climate bill to be decided at the Copenhagen UN climate summit in December. The issue centers around how national emission reduction targets would be counted:US Wants Loophole Language Included

Europe has been pushing to retain structures and systems set up under the Kyoto protocol, the existing global treaty on climate change. US negotiators have told European counterparts that the Obama administration intends to sweep away almost all of the Kyoto architecture and replace it with a system of its own design.

What that design is is entirely known, but based on draft plans sent to the UN, it would contain legal language which would essentially allow the US to exempt itself from international actions which are not in "conformity with domestic law" -- in other words, the US could theoretically sign up for an international treaty and then have those commitments trumped if Congress sets different (more likely lower) emission reduction targets.

US and International Law Don't Play Well Together
It's frankly consistent with ideas of US exceptionalism regarding international law going back decades, and was described by an unnamed high-ranking European official in the original Guardian piece as representative of the "prehistoric" level of climate change debate in the US as a whole.

Though the perception in Europe is that there is a genuinely large shift in attitudes towards climate change on the part of the Obama administration, no one is deluding themselves into thinking that the US as a whole (particularly segments of the US business community) is really behind strong climate action.

Is a Weak Agreement Really Better Than No Agreement?
Though there was no official US comment on this in the Guardian, they did find US negotiators, who worked on the Kyoto Protocol, for counterpoint. Nigel Purvis denied this sort of language would weaken the international agreement and said,

It is important for the US to negotiate an agreement it can join, because another agreement that did not involved the United States would set back efforts to protect the climate. Is it weaker to have a system that applies to more countries? I would argue not.

European negotiators don't seem to think so, a source close to them saying, "If we end up with a weaker framework with less stringent compliance, then that is not so good for the chances of hitting 2C."

More: The Guardian
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