COP21: Voluntary action or binding regulations?

The international community is meeting to discuss steps to limit global warming at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris. Not all states can commit to binding climate objectives, some commentators stress. Others see an agreement with sanction mechanisms as a chance for politicians to regain the people's confidence.

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Der Standard (AT) /

Voluntary agreement no guarantee

Voluntary action on climate protection is a poor substitute for a binding agreement, the centre-left daily Der Standard comments: "Whether a celebrated climate protection agreement worth the paper it is written on will be in place by the end of these two weeks is questionable. The trend towards 'voluntary action' in international climate protection policy that can be observed for some time now may well backfire, because if we rely on voluntary policies there will be no international mechanisms for monitoring national data on emissions. Also there would be no possibilities for sanctions if states simply ignore the guidelines. In no time international climate protection would become nothing but a weather vane that can be sacrificed in the name of national day-to-day politics."

Libération (FR) /

COP21 must restore trust in politics

People's trust in politics hangs in the balance in Paris, the liberal daily Libération believes, and calls for a binding agreement: "The key players on this overheated planet have all the more responsibility in that the tragic timing of the conference and the excesses that are taking place under the pretext of a state of emergency have prevented civil society - apart from very worthy human chains - from putting peaceful pressure on the meeting in Le Bourget. If the COP 21 ends without an agreement or with a non-binding one, it will be considered a simple political greenwashing event. Leaders, members of parliament and politicians will be all the more discredited. In this case, the 'name and shame' that will no doubt take place will not be limited to a few climate sinners. It will weaken democracy itself."

Dziennik Gazeta Prawna (PL) /

Not all states can fulfil ambitious goals

The climate goals must not dogmatically apply for all countries equally, Polish energy expert Filip Elżanowski writes in a commentary for the conservative daily Dziennik Gazeta Prawna, pointing to the problems in his own country: "An agreement should be formulated to be flexible and take account of the specific conditions, needs and possibilities of the individual countries, and in particular those of the less developed states. … Poland is completely dependent on energy production based almost entirely on coal. This is why any demands to reduce emissions trigger major controversies here. The EU's expectations for reducing carbon dioxide emissions are already a huge burden for our country."

The Times (GB) /

Threat of climate change exaggerated

Politicians and activists who warn of the disastrous effects of climate change are panic-mongers and their arguments are not based on facts, Matt Ridley, a Conservative member of the British House of Lords, writes in the conservative daily The Times: "The 40,000 people meeting in Paris over the next 12 days are committed to the view that the weather is certain to do something nasty towards the end of this century unless we cut emissions. In this, they are out of line with scientists. A survey of the members of the American Meteorological Society in 2012 found that only 52 per cent agree that climate change is mostly man-made, and as to its being very harmful if unchecked, only 34 per cent of AMS members agree. … Are we certain we are not overreacting?"