The COP21 climate talks are in the home stretch, with a working deadline of Saturday for an agreement and a practical deadline of Sunday, when the vast temporary complex for the talk, and the supporting cast of logistical and security staff at the largely defunct Le Bourget airport, will become a memory.
Secretary of State John Kerry has been a rallying presence in this end-game. Earlier this week, he announced that the U.S. will commit $800 million in additional adaptation aid by 2020 to developing nations that will be submerged or otherwise will need to respond to sea level rise and other climate impacts. According to Kerry, the U.S. is now committed to reach $1 billion in such aid annually by 2020.
Through these and other actions, Senator Kerry has given the U.S. prominence in the self-dubbed “High Ambition Coalition” of nations seeking an agreement that is as ambitious, transparent, and enforceable as possible. The ultimate fate of the negotiations will be determined by whether this coalition, which includes the European Union and more than 100 other developed or developing nations, can resolve its differences with less developed countries like India, concerned that it cannot de-carbonize its economy as quickly as the Coalition would like, and island states like the Phoenix Islands, concerned about recovering compensation, losses, and damages when their countries are inevitably and irrevocable submerged.
The View from New England
The push for ambitious carbon cuts promoted by Kerry and the larger Coalition have crucial importance for the secretary’s home region of New England. Our energy system is currently at a crossroads – choosing between a path of continued de-carbonization or a path marked by immense new investment in natural gas pipelines and plants, which would lock us into fossil fuel dependency for generations to come.
A Paris agreement that includes ambitious commitments for carbon reduction will send a strong signal to regional, national, and international markets that fossil fuels have no economic future after COP21. If such an agreement emerges, the New Englanders present and pushing in Paris – including Kerry, Senators Markey (MA), Shaheen (NH), and Whitehouse (RI) – will fairly be entitled to bragging rights.
Conversely, failing to reach an ambitious agreement in Paris would dampen New England’s continued shift to an energy platform in which renewables predominate.
Read all of CLF’s recent blog posts on COP21 and New England’s path forward.