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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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POLITICS

Awkward anniversary as French far-right marks 50 years

France's far-right leader Marine Le Pen said her anti-immigration party was "ready to govern" on Wednesday as it marked 50 years since its founding, an awkward anniversary that has highlighted her troubled relationship with her father.

Awkward anniversary as French far-right marks 50 years

The party’s financial difficulties and the continuing bitterness and rivalry inside the Le Pen family clan mean there are no major celebrations for the half-century landmark.

Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marine’s father and the co-founder of the National Front in 1972, has not been invited to a conference on Thursday which is the only event planned for the occasion.

“From a protest party, we have become a party that is ready to govern,” Marine Le Pen told parliament on Wednesday, with the reference to her father heading a mere “protest party” likely to further displease him.

“Today I wish to pay tribute to all of the activists that for 50 years have worked for the national cause,” she added.

After replacing Jean-Marie as head of the party after his nearly 40-year stint at the helm, Le Pen ejected him in 2015 as part of her strategy of cleaning up the National Front’s image.

Three years later, she changed the party’s name from the National Front to National Rally (RN) as a re-branding exercise intended to further distance herself from the legacy of anti-Semitism and racism associated with her father.

The move has paid dividends at the ballot box, moving the party from the fringes to the political mainstream.

At her third tilt at the presidency, Le Pen scored her party’s highest ever result in April, winning 41 percent of votes against President Emmanuel Macron who was elected for a second term.

Concerns about crime, immigration and the rising cost of living then saw her party increase its representation in parliament 10 fold in June elections to a historic high of 89 seats, making it the biggest opposition group.

“From hope to power, we continue!” the interim president of the party, Jordan Bardella, who replaced Le Pen when she stood for  the presidency, wrote on Twitter.

Moderate image?

Many far-right MPs and senior party figures were reportedly reluctant to mark the 50th anniversary of the National Front (FN) at all, given the associations with Jean-Marie who is viewed as toxic by a majority of the French electorate.

The low-level event on Thursday was seen as a compromise and will focus on the party’s success in spotlighting themes such as immigration, Euroscepticism, job losses due to globalisation, and Islamism.

Jean-Marie is to host a garden party later this month at the family’s chateau outside Paris.

“Marine Le Pen says today that thanks to the FN of her father, questions such as the immigration and the dangers of globalisation have been debated, but at the end of the day for 10 years she has been wearing herself out trying to get rid of her father’s provocative image on every issue,” wrote political journalist Alba Ventura at RTL radio.

After the parliamentary elections in June, Le Pen ordered her new MPs to dress smartly for parliament and is determined to position her party as the most credible opposition party to Macron’s centrist alliance.

According to a major polling study published this week by Le Monde newspaper and the Cevipof political research group in Paris, the hard-left France Unbowed opposition group was seen as “too radical” by 53 percent of French people.

Only 34 percent thought the same of Le Pen’s party.

Jean-Yves Camus, an expert on the far-right at the left-leaning Jean-Jaures Foundation, a think-tank, said Le Pen had partially succeeded in distancing herself from her father.

“It’s impossible to completely cut off one’s filiation and the RN can never escape history. But afterwards you’re not defined your whole life by your beginnings,” he told AFP.

If Le Pen become French president one day, it would mark a political earthquake for Europe.

“At some point, if you cultivate your ground for 50 years with a certain zeal, you could end up with the conjunction of a man or a woman and a moment,” Camus said.

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