Differentiation in climate responsibility now forward-looking: U.S.

December 13, 2015 10:42 am | Updated December 04, 2021 11:04 pm IST - Washington

French Foreign Minister and president of the COP21, Laurent Fabius (R) and United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon at the final conference of the COP2 in Le Bourget, Paris, on Saturday.

French Foreign Minister and president of the COP21, Laurent Fabius (R) and United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon at the final conference of the COP2 in Le Bourget, Paris, on Saturday.

Differentiation in climate responsibility will now be a forward-looking concept, as opposed to the earlier backward-looking notion, a senior Obama administration official said hours after countries arrived at an agreement in Paris.

The Paris agreement, among other things made emission cuts a responsibility of all countries — both the developing and the developed.

“It [Paris agreement] revises the architecture of climate system with the means of differentiation that looks forward, not back. It provides for robust financial and technological support for the poor and developing countries with a strong participation of private sector. This was a very big deal, a long time coming,” the official said, speaking on background, minutes before President Barack Obama made a TV appearance to hail the deal “historic.”

"We came together around a strong agreement the world needed," said Mr. Obama. "We met the moment….This agreement represents the best chance we have to save the one planet that we have got."

‘U.S.-China joint statement, a key milestone’

Explaining the background of the deal, the official said Mr. Obama had resolved soon after the failed 2009 Copenhagen climate conference that progress had to be made on this front. “As a result, you saw a deliberate strategy unfold over the course of several years. What has been agreed in Paris fundamentally change the dynamic of climate talks,” the official said. He said the President’s strategy had been to turn the debate domestically and internationally simultaneously. “Strong domestic action is the foundation of the U.S leadership across the globe to change the international dynamic,” he said.

The official said reaching out to China culminating in the U.S-China joint statement of November 2014 was the key milestone in the route to Paris. He said building on the success with China, President Obama could get India, Brazil and Mexico on board subsequently. “Strong accountability and transparency system for both developed and developing countries,” he said.

While it is clear that Mr. Obama’s attempt will be to project the Paris climate agreement as the finest feather in his presidential cap, he is certain to face criticism from two opposite perspectives. One section believes that the agreement does too little to deal with climate challenges – Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders tweeted that the agreement is not bold enough though it is in the right direction. The other section believes America would be conceding too much in terms of finances and emission cuts. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee chairman Jim Inhofe said nations like China and India, were not being held to high standards and the administration had no power to commit finances without Congressional approval. The administration official that briefed the media, however, said no Congressional approval was necessary for the rollout of the agreement. “Sceptics can remain sceptics. But the tide of history is moving with us. Paris represents a watershed,” he said.

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