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POLITICS

Paris agreement: France and US make joint commitment in battle against climate change

US climate envoy John Kerry confirmed Wednesday the United States would lay out new financing commitments for the Paris Agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions ahead of an April 22nd summit, the pact's fifth anniversary.

Paris agreement: France and US make joint commitment in battle against climate change
French President Emmanuel Macron (R) elbow bumps US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry as he leaves after their meeting at the Elysée Presidential Palace in Paris on March 10th. Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP

Kerry announced the pledge after talks with French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, part of a European tour to signal a fresh commitment to fighting climate change after ex-president Donald Trump had pulled out of the Paris accord.

“We will announce our NDC at the April 22nd summit or somewhere in the days before it,” Kerry said, referring to the nationally determined contributions required by signatories.

The summit will be a “building block” for the road to the COP26 UN climate conference in Glasgow in November, Kerry added, “and we will measure ourselves every day on whether we’re meeting this effort”.

Kerry and Le Maire also said they would jointly study efforts to enlist private financing for the fight against global warming, as governments scramble to line up funds to match the Paris accord goal to keep the global temperature increase to under two degrees Celsius, and ideally closer to 1.5C, by 2050.

Kerry also met with French President Emmanuel Macron, who he said “wants to work with President (Joe) Biden extremely closely, not just on the reduction of emissions, but in helping to provide the tools that will achieve this goal, specifically climate finance”.

Le Maire added that “we have to bring together growth and the environment, and the United States once again shares this goal. Finance is the sinew of this war for the climate.”

Kerry estimated that “the private sector may be able to play the largest role of all and move faster than any other entity to help us reach our goal.”

But he gave a cautious welcome to France’s push for a so-called carbon border tax for the European Union, which would let governments set tariffs on imports from countries that do not impose strict limits on greenhouse gas emissions for making certain products.

“We haven’t been able to sit down and evaluate” whether or not it is the right tool, Kerry said.

“Our friends from France are planning to do a deep dive on it… and we look forward to hearing from them on how they might apply it and how it might work,” he said.

Asked to comment on Chinese commitments to limit climate change, Kerry was diplomatic regarding the world’s leading emitter of greenhouse gases.

“It’s not just about China,” Kerry said. “We are not trying to single out one nation.

 “If China went to zero (emissions) tomorrow, we would still have a problem.

“This is a challenge for all of us,” he emphasised.

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FRENCH POLITICS

Pro-Macron MP becomes France’s first woman speaker

France's lower house of parliament has agreed to pick an MP from President Emmanuel Macron's centrist coalition as the first woman speaker, despite the ruling alliance losing its majority in legislative elections.

Pro-Macron MP becomes France's first woman speaker

Yael Braun-Pivet, who had been serving as the minister for overseas territories, is the first woman to ever hold the post of speaker in the history of the Assemblée nationale.

Despite the loss of its overall majority, Macron’s ruling alliance still managed to push through her appointment in the second round of voting.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne and other senior Macron backers have been trying to win over individual right-wing and moderate left parliamentarians to bolster their ranks.

Borne, appointed last month, is France’s second woman prime minister after the brief stint by Edith Cresson in the 1990s.

Olivier Marleix, head of the centre-right Les Républicains group seen as most compatible with Macron, met Borne on Tuesday. “We’ve told her again there is no question of any kind of coalition,” he said.

But he added that the prime minister “really showed that she wanted to listen to us. That’s quite a good sign.

“We’re here to try and find solutions,” he added. “There will be some draft laws where I think we should be able to work together,” including one to boost households’ purchasing power in the face of food and energy inflation.

“It’s not in the interest of parties who have just been elected” to make a long-term deal to support the government, said Marc Lazar, a professor at Paris’s Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po).

Borne under pressure

One key question will be whether Thursday’s vote to head the finance committee – with its extensive powers to scrutinise government spending – will be won by an MP from the far-right Rassemblement National (RN).

Led by Macron’s defeated presidential opponent Marine Le Pen, the RN would usually have a claim on the post as the largest single opposition party.

It faces a stiff challenge from the NUPES left alliance – encompassing Greens, Communists, Socialists and the hard-left France Unbowed (LFI) – who agreed on Tuesday on a joint candidate after some internal jostling.

Next week could see exchanges heat up in the chamber, as government chief Borne delivers a speech setting out her policy priorities.

Macron told AFP at the weekend that he had “decided to confirm (his) confidence in Elisabeth Borne” and asked her to continue talks to find either allies for the government in parliament or at least backing for crucial confidence and budget votes.

The president has ruled out both tax increases and higher public borrowing in any compromise deals with other parties.

Even as the government projects business almost as usual, hard-left LFI especially has vowed to try to prevent key proposals, such as the flagship reform to raise the legal retirement age from 62 to 65.

Party deputy chief Adrien Quatennens said on Sunday there was “no possible agreement” with Macron, saying cooperation would “make no sense”.

“We haven’t heard (Macron) move or back down one iota on pension reform” or other controversial policies, he added.

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