Paris: US Secretary of State John Kerry warned today that a week of hard bargaining lies ahead at UN climate talks in Paris but argued the “stage is set” for a historic deal.
Kerry arrived in the French capital earlier in the day for the final intense period of negotiations at the UN conference which is seeking a pact to rein in the greenhouse gas emissions blamed for altering Earth’s climate.
“I am an optimist or I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing,” Kerry told conference-goers at a meeting in Paris organised by tech news site Mashable.
“I think the stage is set. I think the attitude is currently there. I think there are players that would like to try to scale it back, to hold us back a little.
“My hope is the momentum that we are building and good negotiating over the next days will overcome those hurdles and that towards the end of the week, we will be able to come to an agreement.”
“I think we can,” he added, promising that both he and his French counterpart Laurent Fabius, whom he met privately on arrival in Paris, hope to have a global climate deal by Friday.
“I am so hopeful that Paris will be a truly historic moment when we will ratify what people all over the world are coming to understand,” he said.
“This is happening, it’s happening now, it’s happening faster than scientists had predicted it would,” he said, referring to global warming.
He derided global warming deniers as “members of the Flat Earth Society” and warned they would be left on the wrong side of history.
Despite his upbeat tone, Kerry did admit tough talks lay ahead, with leaders from the developing world insisting that the rich countries that created most of the carbon emissions threatening the planet pay for the clean-up.
“It is time to get rid of this rigid differentiation between developed and developing in a way that prevents us from maximising our progress going forward,” he said.
And he admitted that the United States could not sign a pact promising that it “shall” meet a certain target as a legal treaty would have to be approved by the US Congress, where the Republican majority opposes emissions cuts.
“The frank and civil answer is that certain terms have legal impact and certain legal impacts have political impacts and a certain political impact could kill the agreement,” he said.
Kerry and a large US negotiating team will spend the week in Paris for the technical and political negotiations on a final deal and will take part in public events.