WikiLeaks / Cablegate: French Say Legally Binding Treaties Will Never Be Passed

It is apparent that no treaties that reach the table of any international climate negotiations have a chance of halting or even slowing climate change, much less the ones that do actually reach agreement. Those that are agreed upon by the majority of industrial nation governments are those that do not bind the parties to anything even financially significant. This lack of binding agreements has become the “accepted” norm (accepted among political leaders, that is), and no wonder if discussions between politicians and diplomats – as below – pre-empts any agreements with this assumption.

The cable below clarifies the French position on binding agreements, with special reference to the Copenhagen Accord, the document agreed by the parties at the Copenhagen Summit in 2009 that famously includes the infinitely open-ended statement, “We should cooperate in achieving the peaking of global and national emissions as soon as possible…” The highlighting of economic mechanisms over any actual tangible reductions is also notable but not surprising.


Reference ID: 10PARIS183
Created: 2010-02-17 11:11
Released: 2010-12-10 21:09
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Origin: Embassy Paris


C O N F I D E N T I A L PARIS 000183


E.O. 19528: DECL: 12/03/2019

REF:09 Paris 1635

Classified by Amb. Charles H. Rivkin for Reasons 1.5 (b)(d)


¶1. (C) French Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo told the
Ambassador that the key to advancing climate negotiations is to drop
the notion of a legally binding treaty
in favor of a system of
national commitments. He also argued that it would be up to a small
group of eight or ten heads of state, and their sherpas, to negotiate
implementation of the Copenhagen Accord. Borloo attributed the
European obsession with legally binding treaties to its post-war
history and experience in creating the EU by progressively ceding
sovereignty via treaty. The key to reaching this kind of deal would
be credible action on tradable quotas, forests, and finance including
innovative financing mechanisms. The Copenhagen Accord was not a
failure, but allowing the means to become the ends was a trap. End

¶2. (C) Ambassador Rivkin called on Minister of State for Sustainable
Development Jean-Louis Borloo on February 11 to review the Copenhagen
Conference and next steps on the Accord. They had last met on the
eve of the conference (reftel.) Borloo expressed in several
different ways the idea that Copenhagen had gone off track because
its approach had been too Western and too European. Major emerging
countries were not prepared to cede sovereignty to a treaty, while EU
members saw this as both normal and essential. Borloo observed that
Copenhagen had, in fact, established a possible global deal on
emissions reductions by the United States, China, and Europe. We
will not get beyond this balance at the next Conference of the
Parties (COP) in Cancun
, he said.

¶3. (C) Borloo insisted that UNFCCC COP negotiators did not have the
ability to close a deal after years of ongoing negotiations. It was
now up to the major heads of state. He suggested a group of eight or
ten: Germany and France for Europe, the United States, China, India,
Brazil, Algeria and Ethiopia (and possibly South Africa). Once these
leaders, working through their sherpas or personal representatives
agree on an implementation plan for Copenhagen, it will be largely
acceptable to, and accepted by, the rest of the world, and can then
be returned to a UN forum to be finalized. (Borloo dismissed the
role of Spain as the current EU Presidency country, saying that Spain
has exceeded its Kyoto Protocol targets by 50 percent and is mired by
its internal economic situation. The United Nations also did not
have any leadership capacity to advance the negotiations, he said.)

¶4. (C) Borloo argued that the key to implementing the "equilibrium"
revealed at Copenhagen was an arrangement that would be voluntary but
also automatic in implementation and would include tradable emissions
quotas (with linked carbon markets), a forestry mechanism (REDD
Plus), and financing, including innovative financing and a fast start
mechanism. He commented that China would agree to such a system as
far preferable to a U.S. and EU carbon border tax or tariff

¶5. (C) Borloo thought that adhesion to the Copenhagen Accord would be
more than adequate to establish its acceptance, and he expected most
of Africa and three quarters of the island states to sign on. He
relayed that France continues to advocate adhesion and said that he
personally was travelling and meeting with key country counterparts,
including China and India.

¶6. (C) COMMENT: Borloo conveyed a strategic view of these
negotiations that has changed significantly. We note especially his
assessment that a legally binding instrument is not only unnecessary
but also impossible. He stressed that unlike some Europeans, the
French understood the USG position and had not been critical of the
United States at Copenhagen. In fact, he said, the success of the
Copenhagen Accord for the USG had been the direct engagement of
President Obama. END COMMENT.


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