ClimateWire's Friedman discusses impacts of evolving security situation on climate talks

With an ongoing and tense security situation in France, changes have been made to aspects of next month's international climate talks. Will there be an impact on the substance of the discussions or the outcome of the negotiations? On today's The Cutting Edge, ClimateWire reporter Lisa Friedman discusses the latest details on the meeting and previews her plans for coverage from Paris.


Monica Trauzzi: Welcome to The Cutting Edge. With an ongoing intense security situation in France, changes have been made to aspects of the international climate talks. ClimateWire's Lisa Friedman is here with the latest information and also details on her plans for coverage from Paris next month. Lisa, what's the latest on the changes to the conference and related events?

Lisa Friedman: Thanks, Monica. COP21 will go forward, but it will be a lot more subdued. The French government yesterday announced that the massive rally that had been planned for November 29th, just before opening day, will be canceled because of security concerns. There had been hopes that there would be some 200,000 people along with U.N. leaders, maybe world leaders, celebrities, a lot like the march that we saw in New York a couple years ago, opening up with great hope and excitement the negotiations that are supposed to start the next day, on the 30th. That won't happen. Activists are looking for other ways, creative ways to mobilize, but the negotiations themselves will go on.

Pretty much, you know, within 24 hours of the attacks, we heard from Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and then President Francois Hollande that COP21 will happen as planned. There will be some 20,000 people arriving for the negotiations themselves, 120 heads of state. There have been no -- that we've heard, there have been no leaders saying that they won't come. And, in fact, President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have said that indeed they will be there.

Monica Trauzzi: So as you talk to your sources who are planning to be in Paris for the meeting, has there been any shift in tone surrounding the discussions, and have any of them indicated that they've made any changes to their plans?

Lisa Friedman: If anything, there seems to be a real get-it-done spirit. There's definitely a sense of determination that, despite the attacks, there will be a hopefully successful negotiation. The definition of what successful is differs, you know, depending on whom you talk to. You know, activists are looking at other ways to mobilize people who care about climate change, so there's been talk about everybody putting their shoes in the Place de la Republique with messages on them to convey messages of hope. And leaders have said that they really hope that there is a sense that there will be a spirit of cooperation and that that will translate into showing the world that international law can happen and can matter. We'll see if that does translate.

Monica Trauzzi: France has put a lot of effort behind having a successful COP21 meeting. Have the attacks fostered a spirit of cooperation and do you anticipate any change in the substance of the negotiations or what that final outcome might look like?

Lisa Friedman: I think that's the rub. I think, you know, we will definitely see a shift in tone. I don't know that I'm convinced that we'll see a change in substance. No doubt the first day when leaders get there and when ministers get there, we will see speeches of sympathy, of concern, of solidarity with the French people, a call for cooperation. But the more I talk to negotiators, the less convinced I am that there's going to be any real change in positions, right. Like, well we said at least see the U.S. say, "No, no, you're right, folks. This should be a treaty. We'll take care of Congress." No, that's not going to happen. We're not going to see Saudi Arabia say, "You know what? We'll keep it in the ground. We'll keep the oil in the ground." That's not going to happen. And I don't mean this to be cynical either. You know, this is a negotiation that has happened over four years, 20 years by some counts. What happens in Paris, the deal that leaders and negotiators make on climate change, will affect every country. It will affect every economy, every sector of every economy in every country. This is a very hard-fought negotiation, and so it wouldn't be realistic to think that real substantive positions would change just because of this.

Monica Trauzzi: Back here in Washington, Republicans this week have taken steps against the Paris talks. Will that have any legs once you get to Paris?

Lisa Friedman: I think that's an example of how you see entrenched concerns overriding a sense of cooperation, right. I mean, the French have made no bones about the fact that they are very much hoping to see a successful climate agreement, and part of a successful climate agreement means money for poor countries that are trying to change their energy systems, that are trying to cope with the impacts. Republicans yesterday, in a new resolution, and in a series of hearings earlier in the week, made their positions very clear, that despite the attacks, they want the world to know that this money is not coming that the Obama administration asked for and that they are, in fact, dead set against it. Will this have any impact on the ground? I think the real impact is here at home and long term. The negotiations themselves, they happen in kind of a bubble. You know, this is thousands of people who believe that the science about climate change is real and accurate. This is a group of people, thousands of people, who are there to do something to address climate change, different though the approaches of different countries may be. And so usually Republicans and other naysayers tend to be sideshows at the event itself, but the implications here at home are serious.

Monica Trauzzi: You'll head to Paris at the end of the month. Have you made any changes at all to your travel plans or your plans for coverage?

Lisa Friedman: Actually no. You know, as soon as we learned that the talks were on, myself, my colleagues, Jean Chemnick and Joel Kirkland, all three of us who are going to Paris, we decided that we would have no changes in our plans, we would be there along with everyone else covering COP21.

Monica Trauzzi: All right, Lisa. Thank you. Looking forward to your coverage.

Lisa Friedman: Thank you.

Monica Trauzzi: More Cutting Edge coming next Friday. We'll see you then.

[End of Audio]



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