Connie Hedegaard, the EU's climate chief, told ClimateWire that she understood getting the U.S. Senate to ratify a climate treaty was a tall order. But Hedegaard said she wasn't ready to settle for a mix of voluntary environmental pledges and some legally binding provisions like the ones the White House is reportedly coveting.
"Our own experience in Europe is, it helps when you have something binding and not just nice intentions. We also have this tradition in our international politics that it is not dangerous to have binding agreements. It's your assurance that if you make a deal with somebody else, you can be sure they are also delivering," she told the publication.
President Obama has placed much emphasis on next year's United Nations-hosted negotiations in Paris, which are viewed as a last-ditch effort to secure enough carbon-cutting commitments by 2020 to avoid what most scientists say would be a 2 degrees Celsius temperature rise by 2100. The Obama administration, however, has pushed back against reports that it is working behind the scenes on a "politically binding" arrangement that would circumvent Senate approval.
But in climate policy circles, it's been well understood that the White House is looking for a way to cement climate commitments without Senate ratification. That's because Republicans and centrist Democrats would likely stand in the way of the 67 senators needed to approve a deal.