Paris Climate Accords Rely on Public Shaming?


The Paris climate accords have been hailed as a “great achievement”for the member nations who participated in the COP21 meetings last week, but even signed, the accords come with one big hitch: they contain no enforcement provision nor any rubric to maintain accountability among those nations who committed to reduce their carbon output in order to curb “climate change.”

Pressed by NBC’s Chuck Todd on the agreement’s flaw, Secretary of State John Kerry, in charge of negotiating for the United States, claimed that the accords still specified benchmarks and created “mandatory reporting,” but failed to indicate to whom member nations would be accountable. Instead, Kerry insisted that member nations would keep each other accountable through “public shaming,” – a strategy that involves little more than a snarky back-and-forth between signers.

Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press, Kerry defended the merits of the climate agreement, but host Chuck Todd challenged him on how the deal will be implemented.

“There’s a lot of pledges. There’s a lot of promises. But there seems to be no mechanism for getting countries to comply other than wagging your finger at them and shaming them. Am I wrong?” Todd asked.

“Well that’s the most powerful weapon in many ways,” Kerry replied, “but it’s not the only weapon. And, in fact, we think that there are other powerful weapons.”

Kerry said President Obama has been able to move action on climate change in the United States not just by enforcement mechanisms but also “by setting policy,” which he says took place in Paris with this agreement.

“Here we set policy,” Kerry said, with 186 countries each submitting their own proposal to reduce emissions based on their capabilities.

Every five years, Kerry noted, countries will have to report on their progress towards their self-set goals. He said that everyone at the table, including such notable environmental luminaries as China and India are aware of the importance of their participation, and will be willing to give and receive help in order to save the planet from the dangers of carbon. The countries, Kerry said, would “share experiences,” presumably in some sort of global group therapy.

Later, Kerry noted that, if the climate accords were actually binding, none of the member nations would have signed and no deal would have been reached, which makes sense: if you were going to be held to an economically in-feasible goal in order to “prevent” something you may have no impact on anyway, you’d be hard-pressed to find it in your heart to commit, too.