By Michelle Zilio
November 22, 2015
Publication source: CTV News
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May is warning that a global climate change treaty, to be finalized at a major international summit in Paris next month, is “weak” in about 100 areas.
May told CTV’s Question Period that she is worried about the deal.
“I’m … nervous about the fate of the treaty and about the text that needs to be resolved, which right now is weak in about a 100 different parts that we have to try to put together,” said May.
Particularly critical for May is Article 17 of the draft agreement, which leaves open the option to make the treaty legally binding.
“Legally binding is critical. There’s still draft language. It’s one of the options,” said May.
“If people can picture 54 pages of text and every single sentence has parts that are in square brackets, meaning we haven’t agreed on this part yet … one of those, this one maybe, says this will have ratification process and be legally binding.”
While the details of the Paris climate treaty likely won’t be resolved until December, there is global concern that the treaty won’t be a legally-binding one. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told the Financial Times earlier this month that the deal won’t have legally binding reduction targets like the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. There is concern that a legally-binding treaty would not make it through the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress, which has resisted President Barack Obama’s environmental agenda.
But European leaders want the deal to be ratified by governments around the world. Responding to Kerry’s comments, French President Francois Hollande said that if the deal is not legally binding, “there is no accord.” Hollande’s country will host the United Nations climate talks from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11, where negotiators hope to reach a deal asking all countries to reduce emissions that contribute to global warming.
More than 150 countries have already submitted their targets for cuts to emissions, including Canada. The previous Conservative government committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. May said she hopes new Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will adjust those targets when he meets with the premiers on Monday in Ottawa, influencing other countries to do so as well.
“I’m really hoping that our new prime minister and cabinet change that target,” May said. “Canada can help by bringing more to the table that could shift other countries to say, ‘Okay, well if Canada’s shifting, we can shift.’”
May, who will attend the summit alongside Trudeau, said she is more nervous about the fate of the climate negotiations than the security situation in Paris, which recently dealt with a series of devastating terror attacks.
“Rationally, I know that I am going to probably what will be the safest place on Earth, a conference centre that will have not only our prime minister, but President Obama, (Russian President) Vladimir Putin,” said May. “I’d be kidding you if I didn’t say I had moments of anxiety.”
May’s treaty concerns in the details
May has studied the draft Paris treaty at length and, in addition to the legally-binding aspect, has a number of concerns.
She also draws attention to Article 2, which leaves open the option to commit to a range of caps on global temperature increases, from below 1.5 C to 2 C. May insists that it is important to get the global average temperature commitment as low as possible. She warns that even at a 1.5 C cap, the world will see the dramatic effects of climate change, including reduced Arctic ice.
Regular reviews of treaty commitments are also essential, says May. The draft version of Article 3 presents a number of time frame options for review periods, ranging from five years to more vague commitments like “adjustments at any time” or “before the end of the period of implementation.” May said she prefers the most regular and predictable option – every five years.