Abandon hope for UN climate treaty, potential French president believes

13.12.10 @ 17:51

  1. By Andrew Willis

BRUSSELS - Former French environment minister and potential presidential candidate Jean-Louis Borloo believes Europe is obsessed with legally-binding treaties as a result of its post-war history and its experience in gradually ceding sovereignty to Brussels - a hang-up that is unnecessarily affecting the UN climate negotiation process, a US diplomatic cable has revealed.

  • Former French environment minister Jean-Louis Borloo (Photo: WWF)

The cable's release by WikiLeaks on Friday (10 December) came just hours before EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard said much more work was needed if a legally-binding deal on cutting carbon emissions was to be achieved next year, as Europe hopes for.

But in a meeting with US ambassador to France Charles Rivkin on 11 February, Mr Borloo said the key to advancing climate negotiations is to drop the notion of a legally binding treaty in favour of a system of national commitments, according to the cable.

He also argued that it would be up to a small group of eight or ten heads of state to negotiate implementation of the Copenhagen Accord, a controversial deal struck last December under which signatories agreed to voluntary emission cuts.

Those pledges were enshrined in a UN document for the fist time over the weekend in Cancun, Mexico, with Ms Hedegaard giving no indication that the EU plans to ditch its search for a more comprehensive deal in South Africa next year, despite considerable pessimism from analysts.

"Everyone needs to be aware that we still have a long and challenging journey ahead of us to reach the goal of a legally binding global climate framework," Ms Hedegaard said on Saturday after the talks drew to a close.

The EU and some green NGOs have greeted the Cancun Agreement as a modest success while others have slammed the result, saying it is unfair to developing countries and could also put the planet on track to temperature increases of up to 5°C. Meanwhile, the pace of talks has alarmed almost everyone.

At the February meeting, Mr Borloo argued that major emerging countries were not prepared to cede sovereignty to a treaty, while EU members saw this as both normal and essential, according to the cable.

He added that in his belief, the UN climate negotiators did not have the ability to close a deal after years of talks.

The release of the US diplomatic cable also comes just days before EU leaders are set to agree a further EU treaty chance in order to set up a permanent stability mechanism to aid struggling eurozone nations.

Until recently, Mr Borloo was environment minister in the government of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, but was unceremoniously dropped in a cabinet reshuffle in November.

The centrist politician is now one of the names being tipped to potentially challenge Mr Sarkozy for the centre-right UMP nomination for presidential elections in the spring of 2012.