Paris Agreement is a Real Tiger: Lock and Load

By Published on December 30, 2015

Dismissing the Paris Climate Agreement as a paper tiger because America’s emission-reduction and foreign-aid commitments are not “legally binding” is whistling past the graveyard. The Paris agreement is first and foremost a device for mobilizing political pressure against U.S. opponents of President Obama’s climate policies. Those would be Republicans and their fossil-fuel industry allies.

At the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) meeting in Paris, President Obama wanted, and got, an agreement in which each nation’s core commitments are “politically binding.” Those who laugh about the phrase being an oxymoron, because politicians break their promises all the time, miss the point. What chiefly determines climate policy is not science or law but politics.

The Paris agreement is “politically” rather than “legally” binding in two ways. First, each country’s core commitments are self-chosen (“nationally determined”) rather than specified by the agreement itself. Second, commitments are to be enforced via political pressure (“naming and shaming”) rather than through international tribunals or economic sanctions.

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Jennie Allen
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