US and France join forces against climate change

Francois Hollande upon his arrival at Andrews Air Force Base in the United States. Picture: AP
Francois Hollande upon his arrival at Andrews Air Force Base in the United States. Picture: AP
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The presidents of the United States and France have called for a global pact to fight climate change in a joint statement published yesterday, the first day of a state visit to the US by French leader Francois Hollande.

He and Barack Obama urged more clean energy partnerships to create jobs, as well as support for developing countries as they shift to low-carbon energy.

“As we work toward next year’s climate conference in Paris, we continue to urge all nations to join us in pursuit of an ambitious and inclusive global agreement that reduces greenhouse gas emissions through concrete actions,” read the statement.

Although France has repeatedly called for ambitious carbon cuts, the European Union scaled back its long-term climate goals in January due to difficult economic conditions.

The new emission targets fall short of what some scientists and environmentalists say is needed to prevent the worst effects of climate change.

International talks to try to agree on a successor to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the first and only international agreement to tackle climate change, are due to be held in Paris next year.

A new global pact might include pledges on curbing greenhouse gas emissions and measures to enable the poorest nations to adapt better to climate change. The US, recently overtaken by China as the world’s top carbon polluter, has never ratified the Kyoto pact.

President Obama yesterday took President Hollande on a tour of the home of the third US president, Thomas Jefferson, at Monticello in Virginia.

“Monticello reflects Jefferson’s affection for the people of France,” the White House said.

The American president will host state dinner for his French counterpart tonight at the White House.

The presidents are expected to discuss a range of issues during the state visit, including Syria’s civil war, Iran’s nuclear program and terrorism in Africa.

The visit comes at a time when Mr Hollande’s popularity has decreased in France, following his split from long-term girlfriend Valerie Trierweiler after reports of an alleged affair with actress Julie Gayet.

Last week, a poll found that fewer than one in five French trust his leadership.

He and Mr Obama will hold a news conference today and visit Arlington National Cemetery in this 70th-anniversary year of the Allied landings in Normandy during World War Two.

The two leaders noted that now, after France’s return to Nato’s military command in 2009, “we have been able to take our alliance to a new level because our interests and values are so closely aligned.”

Despite minor disagreements, France is mostly shoulder-to-shoulder with the US in diplomatic efforts to stop Iran developing a nuclear weapon and ending Syria’s three-year civil war.

Analyst Laurence Nardon, of the French Institute of International Relations in Paris, said France felt “quite hurt” when it backed US-led air strikes on Syria in September, only to see Mr Obama shelve the idea. “Now the line from Hollande is going to be: France is doubtlessly the most active ally of the United States these days to try to maintain stability in the world,” he said.

Since taking office, Mr Hollande’s priority has been to right France’s listing economy. He’ll look to hold up free-market America as an example of economic recovery, to counter a grumbling leftist political base.

Mr Hollande will also travel to San Francisco and meet with chiefs of Silicon Valley giants including Facebook, Twitter, and Google, whose home page in France was required over the weekend to prominently display a notice about the fine it received for violating national privacy laws.