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Mystery Over Last Minute Change To Paris Agreement

December 13, 2015

By Paul Homewood 


There was one interesting development yesterday, as governments came together to approve the final draft of the Paris Agreement, as the Telegraph reported:






An who objected?




The difference between “shall” and “should” is huge, as “shall” would make it legally binding.

Why then did the US object? It is not quite as surprising as it first appears.

This clause goes to the heart of the agreement, as it would oblige developed countries to reduce emissions. Obama knew that any such legally binding treaty would not get through Congress. The word “should” effectively makes emission cuts a voluntary exercise, which needs no treaty approval.


All of this leaves one question. It seems inconceivable that US negotiators would not have spotted the significance of the original wording, and in such an important clause.

On the other hand, the EU and UN have been enthusiastic to make emission cuts legally binding. Was there skulduggery at the last minute, with the word “shall” being slipped back in, with the hope that it would not be noticed? 




Here are the two versions:





  1. December 13, 2015 2:41 pm

    Such subtleties will be ignored by the anti-cap factions, whose relentless “end of fossil fuel era” mantra betrays their real agenda. These people now have a law to enforce, expect much nastiness to come, aided by their friends in ermine (the spell-checker offered vermin, probably should have gone with that).

    • catweazle666 permalink
      December 14, 2015 9:54 pm

      “These people now have a law to enforce”

      No they haven’t.

      Very much the opposite, in fact!

      Even if they had, it wouldn’t get them anywhere, look at Kyoto for example.

  2. December 13, 2015 3:08 pm

    Obama’s legacy – or should that be “lunacy” shall now be in doubt.

    • John Silver permalink
      December 13, 2015 8:29 pm

      It should.

  3. December 13, 2015 3:13 pm

    I bet they don’t have any quality procedures in place so that each draft would have a different version number and all changes would be listed at the front or marked with track changes. I am sure you are correct and that there is skulduggery going on (like with the IPCC reports), so that somebody has tried to slip a word change in hoping that nobody would notice (as they would all be tired from “working hard” for such long hours).

  4. December 13, 2015 4:06 pm

    There was almost certainly skullduggery, probably by the French. But Laurent Fabius, the French president of COP21, blew it in his press announcement of the final draft prior to the assmbly adoption of it. He specifically said the draft was “differentiated, fair, dynamic,durable, balanced, and LEGALLY BINDING.” The US constitution therefore requires ratification by 2/3 of the senate. Never going to happen. So Kerry’s team got it changed back to what had been agreed before. Else no Obama climate legacy.

    And for the next bit, Obama’s EPA Clean Power Plan is being challenged by 23 states as unconstitutional. No less than Harvard Laws Larry Tribe (foremost constitutional expert in the world, as written a brief for them providing three independent grounds for unconstitutionality. His legacy will that of unconstitutional overreach, failed Obamacare, and a deeply troubled foreign policy that enabled ISIS.

  5. SteveT permalink
    December 13, 2015 4:09 pm

    This is where you have to employ the ‘Compare Documents’ feature of your favourite word processor; (Word 2016 for me; other products are available). That way, nothing nefarious will get through!

  6. Robin Guenier permalink
    December 13, 2015 4:22 pm

    climanrecon: “These people now have a law to enforce …” Hmm … it’s hard to see from the largely vague text precisely what law could be enforced. And even harder to imagine who would be the enforcer and how it would be effected. And, far from their “friends in ermine” (since when did lawyers wear ermine BTW?) ignoring subtleties, they thrive on ’em. Hence the “shall” / “should” fuss.

    • December 13, 2015 4:36 pm

      In addition to nonbinding, India got differentiation (2.2), China got lack of transparency ( dont be fooled by 4.8, the crux is preamble para 27), Tuvalu and gang did not get $100billion per year, and Kiribati and gang did not get to sue for loss and damage despite 8.2 (preamble para 52). France did host COP21, and managed to produce an utterly useless agreement.

    • December 13, 2015 4:50 pm

      If you thought 97% of scientists was bad we will now have 100% of countries agreeing, the details and facts don’t matter, this treaty is very bad news, even if it is toothless.

      • Robin Guenier permalink
        December 13, 2015 10:30 pm

        climanrecon: “this treaty is very bad news”. I agree: very bad news for greens.

        In November 2013, Greenpeace said this: “At Paris (COP21- 2015): “Governments must deliver a Protocol under which all countries take on binding emissions reduction commitments.”

        Paris wholly failed to comply. Instead we got a “deal” under which each country can emit whatever it wants to emit – without repercussion, financing (of poorer nations) is essentially voluntary and tracking emissions is not possible if the relevant country doesn’t want it. Oh – and, if you don’t like it, you can bow out after 3 years. In other words, what was supposed to be our last chance to save the planet turned out to be a damp squib without any sense of urgency.

      • catweazle666 permalink
        December 14, 2015 10:00 pm

        “this treaty is very bad news, even if it is toothless.”

        It’s only bad news for the Watermelons, as they will discover when the euphoria has worn off and they wake up with a hangover and realise they’ve been stitched up – again.

  7. December 13, 2015 7:42 pm

    On BBC News on December 12th at 19:49, David Shukman in an interview said “There’s a last minute flurry of huddles. There’s a rumour that the U.S. have a problem with a single word.”

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