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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

French PM announces ‘crackdown’ on teen school violence

French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal on Thursday announced measures to crack down on teenage violence in and around schools, as the government seeks to reclaim ground on security from the far-right two months ahead of European elections.

French PM announces 'crackdown' on teen school violence

France has in recent weeks been shaken by a series of attacks on schoolchildren by their peers, in particularly the fatal beating earlier this month of Shemseddine, 15, outside Paris.

The far-right Rassemblement National (RN) party has accused Attal of not doing enough on security as the anti-immigration party soars ahead of the government coalition in polls for the June 9th election.

READ ALSO Is violence really increasing in French schools?

Speaking in Viry-Chatillon, the town where Shemseddine was killed, Attal condemned the “addiction of some of our adolescents to violence”, calling for “a real surge of authority… to curb violence”.

“There are twice as many adolescents involved in assault cases, four times more in drug trafficking, and seven times more in armed robberies than in the general population,” he said.

Measures will include expanding compulsory school attendance to all the days of the week from 8am to 6pm for children of collège age (11 to 15).

“In the day the place to be is at school, to work and to learn,” said Attal, who was also marking 100 days in office since being appointed in January by President Emmanuel Macron to turn round the government’s fortunes.

Parents needed to take more responsibility, said Attal, warning that particularly disruptive children would have sanctions marked on their final grades.

OPINION: No, France is not suffering an unprecedented wave of violence

Promoting an old-fashioned back-to-basics approach to school authority, he said “You break something – you repair it. You make a mess – you clear it up. And if you disobey – we teach you respect.”

Attal also floated the possibility of children in exceptional cases being denied the right to special treatment on account of their minority in legal cases.

Thus 16-year-olds could be forced to immediately appear in court after violations “like adults”, he said. In France, the age of majority is 18, in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Macron and Attal face an uphill struggle to reverse the tide ahead of the European elections. Current polls point to the risk of a major debacle that would overshadow the rest of the president’s second mandate up to 2027.

A poll this week by Ifop-Fiducial showed the RN on 32.5 percent with the government coalition way behind on 18 percent.

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