Obama, Hollande Talk Climate Change After Public Spat

Turn to the nation's most objective and informative daily environmental news resource to learn how the United States and key players around the world are responding to the environmental...

By Anthony Adragna

Nov. 13 — President Barack Obama and French President François Hollande spoke Nov. 13 in part to smooth over a rift that broke out this week between the two nations over the degree to which the Paris climate accord will be legally binding

Both leaders emphasized during their phone call a “personal commitment to reach an ambitious and durable climate change agreement” in December in Paris, according to the White House. A White House spokesman stressed that the precise nature of the deal will only be known after the Nov. 30-Dec. 11 negotiations conclude.

Additional details of the call were not released.

Their conversation came a day after the two nations sparred over the structure of the agreement. Secretary of State John Kerry told the Financial Times that what comes from the Paris negotiations is “definitively not going to be a treaty,” prompting Hollande to say Nov. 12 “there won't be an agreement” if it isn't legally binding (219 DEN A-14, 11/13/15).

A treaty would need to be ratified by the Senate, where Republicans would likely kill any climate change agreement.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters the exact structure of the deal “will be the subject of the negotiations that are scheduled to take place over 10 or 11 days” but said he expected the deal would have legally binding aspects to it.

“Our expectation is that the kinds of commitments that people will make will be significant and that they will be verifiable and transparent,” Earnest said.

Nearly 200 nations will be involved in the talks where negotiators hope to get a deal combining pledges by nations to curb their greenhouse gas emissions with requirements that those actions be verified and strengthened in the years ahead.

Says Position Unchanged

The State Department, for its part, told Bloomberg BNA in a Nov. 12 statement that its position on the nature of the accord was unchanged.

“The [Financial Times] interview with Secretary Kerry may have been read to suggest that the U.S. supports a completely non-binding approach. That is not the case and that is not Secretary Kerry's position,” a State Department official said.

“The U.S. is pressing for an agreement that contains provisions both legally binding and non-legally binding,” the official continued.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anthony Adragna in Washington at aadragna@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com