Paris Summit Finishes First Draft, U.S. Debates Terrorism-Climate Connection

The 195 countries participating in the Paris Climate Change Summit (COP21) have made their first draft of an agreement, and the spirit remains optimistic.

Still, some worry that the Republican-controlled Congress will sabotage American commitments, with conservative commentators arguing that the president needs to be focused on terrorism. Environmentalists are countering, saying climate change is linked to terrorism.

The first draft of the COP21 agreement is just over 20 pages, according to the Guardian, lacking many of the caveats and frustrating exceptions undermining the 2009 Copenhagen agreement. Likewise, the agreement was on time, and it raised hopes for working out the remaining sticking points in the last week.

Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, shared her enthusiasm with a Tweet.

The main hold-ups so far have been financing for developing countries to cope with locked-in climate change, and developed countries demand that all countries, even developing ones, be held accountable for their greenhouse gas emissions.

At the opening of the summit, Barack Obama said he thinks this problem will be fixed.

“I think we’re going to solve it. I think the issue is just going to be the pace and how much damage is done before we are able to fully apply the brakes.”

According to CNN, the current draft says that “developed countries shall provide developing countries with long-term, scaled-up, predictable, new and additional finance, technology and capability-building,” showing some work has been done on the demands.

Martin Kaiser from Greenpeace is cautiously optimistic, but worried that the deal can still go belly-up.

“Right now the oil-producing nations and the fossil fuel industry will be plotting how to crash these talks when ministers arrive next week.”

In the U.S., there’s another factor that could hold-up a deal — the Republican-controlled Congress.

Last week, Congress voted to repeal rules limiting carbon emissions from power plants, a major part of President Obama’s effort to combat climate change.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy released a statement, saying that Obama is falsely equating terrorism with climate change to justify action. GOP presidential candidates, including Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, and Marco Rubio, have also said that the president doesn’t have his priorities straight.

To reassure negotiators in Paris, a group of 10 Democrat Senators arrived at COP21 to say they “had Barack Obama’s back” and would defend the climate change action in Congress.

Newsweek was also quick to counter the terrorism-first argument by pointing out the connection between the two issues.

Government agencies are weighing the consequences of global warming for stability, and ultimately for America’s national security, including the Pentagon, which released a detailed report earlier this year.

They concluded that “climate change will aggravate problems such as poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership and weak political institutions that threaten stability in a number of countries.”

Likewise, President Obama linked global security with climate change in a speech to the Coast Guard Academy.

“Climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security, an immediate risk to our national security. Politicians who say they care about military readiness ought to care about this as well.”

Bernie Sanders even implied that global warming “creates” terrorism, although few other politicians have gone that far.

In the end, the spirit remains high in the Paris Climate Change summit, but there are still some hurdles to jump, even after an agreement has been reached.

[Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images]