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French Climate Negotiator Applauds New U.S. Administration in Houston Speech

The special ambassador for France in charge of climate change negotiations has high hopes that the Obama administration will match European goals of carbon dioxide reductions. Ed Mayberry reports.



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Brice Lelonde spoke with the French-American Chamber of Commerce in Houston recently, having just flown in from an international climate meeting in Poznan, Poland.

“I’m just coming from Poznan. You know, in Posnan we had the meeting on our way to try to conclude an international agreement on climate change. We are all very excited by what’s happening now in the United States and we have the feeling that things are going to change with the next administration.”

The Bush administration rejected the Kyoto Protocol in 2001. But Lalonde says President-elect Barrack Obama has said he will match the pledge of an 80 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.

“You must understand that in Europe, we are absolutely, we are worried — we are very worried — about climate change. And you had all these hurricanes, huh? You must think of that, huh? We are afraid because we have to harvest our wine one month earlier! It’s terrible! I mean, just think if champagne is going to go to England! I mean, it’s impossible! We can’t, we can’t afford that!”

Another meeting is planned for next year in Copenhagen, Denmark, where a successor climate treaty to the Kyoto Protocol is expected to be drafted. But after his speech, Lelonde noted that French President Sarkozy has to relinquish the presidency of the EU soon.

“I must say I’m quite admiring of Sarkozy because having striked the deal of the energy climate, I guess, was a big achievement, was very difficult. Lots of people said it would not be possible. It’s true the next presidency will probably be not be as powerful because you have probably smaller countries which don’t have the means of a country like France or UK or Germany or even Sweden. But, I mean the legislation has been agreed now. Now, you have to do it.”

Lalonde was a student leader during the May 1968 student uprisings in France. He sees his environmental work as a sort of continuation.

“Well, you know how it is, you sort of, when you are young, you want to get the world better! And in May ’68 that was the same time as the free Speech movement in Berkeley. There was the Vietnam war. I sort of had the romantic view of politics. I learned how to do things. I learned how to speak in public, I learned, and when I saw in ’69 — that was one year after a little step for, on the moon — I thought, okay, there’s nothing more important than our planet Earth. That’s, that’s the, that’s why I was born, I mean, that’s why I have learned how to, how to make leaflets and make speeches in public, and there, it’s for that, so from that date I kept on trying to, to do something for planetarian policies, I would say. I never changed from that time.”

So Lelonde found himself in Houston, applauding the recent U.S. elections and hoping to see the U.S. draft its own climate policy before the Copenhagen meeting.

“So we are very, very happy to see that things have changed, and that the huge incredible ingenuity of the United States is on the way to help us now!”

Ed Mayberry, KUHF Houston Public Radio News.

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