Paris climate talks not just hot air, France tells US

Laurent Fabius said on Thursday that the Paris talks were not just "hot air".
Laurent Fabius said on Thursday that the Paris talks were not just "hot air".PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (Reuters) - Any global climate change deal reached in Paris next month will be legally binding and have a concrete impact, France's foreign minister said on Thursday, reacting to U.S. comments that questioned the status of the accord.

US Secretary of State John Kerry was quoted as telling Wednesday's Financial Times that December's agreement was"definitively not going to be a treaty".

His French counterpart Laurent Fabius said on Thursday that, unlike previous negotiations, the Paris talks were not just "hot air" and Mr Kerry was perhaps "confused".

"Jurists will discuss the legal nature of an accord on whether it should be termed as a treaty or an international agreement," Mr Fabius told reporters. "But the fact that a certain number of dispositions should have a practical effect and be legally binding is obvious so let's not confuse things, which is perhaps what Mr Kerry has done," said Mr Fabius, who spoke to Mr Kerry on Wednesday.

Senior officials from almost 200 nations will meet from November 30 to December 11 to try to rise above the collapse of the last global climate-change conference in Copenhagen in 2009 and nail down a final agreement to limit global warming.

However, while the European Union and developing nations are urging an internationally binding text, others, such as the United States want only national enforcement.

Mr Kerry said the text would not set "legally binding reduction targets like Kyoto".

The Kyoto protocol, signed in 1997, imposed on all signatory countries an obligation to cut their carbon dioxide emissions by at least 5 per cent in the period 2008-2012 versus 1990, a treaty that Washington refused to sign up to.

"This is not a political discussion. This is a real accord with facts," Mr Fabius said. He acknowledged, however, that the U.S. had to take account of domestic political sensitivities.