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Earth Government United States Politics

A Typo Almost Derailed Paris Climate Deal (nytimes.com) 339

An anonymous reader writes: On Saturday, world leaders completed an ambitious international agreement to address climate change. But when the officials received the first copy of what was supposed to be the final draft, a one-word mistake threatened to derail their progress. Part of the agreement involved language that encouraged wealthy nations to provide monetary aid to poorer nations in order to help transition to more sustainable systems. But the draft used the word "shall," which would have made it a legally-binding requirement. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pushed back on the change, noting that previous versions of the document had used the word "should" instead. Officials tried to quickly figure out whether the swap had been made intentionally. Ultimately, they classified it as a typo, and hurriedly prepared a corrected version of the document, which was adopted without incident.
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A Typo Almost Derailed Paris Climate Deal

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  • A typo my ass... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by messymerry ( 2172422 ) on Monday December 14, 2015 @12:02PM (#51114603)
    They tried to pull a fast one...
    • They tried to pull a fast one...

      OTOH - mistakes do happen. Negotiating a treaty between 100s of nations is not something where you can play silly games with words. Children do that; governments have to go back to their parliaments, congresses or maybe even populations where it will be scrutinised in great detail. A small, unfortunate wording would have been very embarrassing, of course, but nothing more than that.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cayenne8 ( 626475 )

        Negotiating a treaty between 100s of nations is not something where you can play silly games with words.

        Err, just a point of clarification, it is NOT a treaty.

        This agreement is not legally binding, it is merely a suggestion of good intentions, but there is no enforcement or legal obligation to participate in it.

        Aside from some mandatory reporting, which I don't know how binding that reporting is....nothing here is binding with any sort of penalties for breaking it.

        If it were a treaty, it would have to

        • this is why the error is not just a "typo". everybody may have been comfortable with the "should", but the "shall" makes it binding. This is why you should always read the contract! A multinational agreement is much more serious than just clicking OK on a TOS.

          • Actually, even the shall is not binding on the USA until it is agreed on. Kerry knows very well as a former senior senator how to count to 60, which is what would be needed to get a treaty that is binding on the USA to get approved by the Senate.

            So please realize what the difference in an executive order and a formal treaty is.

            • well, yes. a Shall would make it a binding agreement, which in the US means the senate would be involved, and in other countries means that there are other complications. I'm talking in general contractual language. it's not just a typo.

        • And that's exactly why I don't understand why people get excited like kids with ADHD when such an "agreement" is being signed.
          IMO it has NULL value. It's just words which countries are going to ignore.

      • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Monday December 14, 2015 @12:44PM (#51114957)

        Negotiating a treaty between 100s of nations ... Children do that;

        But then, you repeat yourself.

      • They tried to pull a fast one...

        OTOH - mistakes do happen. Negotiating a treaty between 100s of nations is not something where you can play silly games with words. Children do that; governments have to go back to their parliaments, congresses or maybe even populations where it will be scrutinised in great detail. A small, unfortunate wording would have been very embarrassing, of course, but nothing more than that.

        You're right, and sometimes they stick around for a long time. I seem to remember a story about UN resolution 242 (1967) where the translators made a mistake (deliberate or not) over whether Israel should withdraw from "occupied territories" or "the occupied territories". The latter would have meant all of them, and was the intent of the version negotiated in French. But Isreal stuck to the former and moved out of a small portion of them.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The "shall" would have made it a treaty. Then the U.S. Senate would have had to ratify it. Obama's playing games, doing his best to evade constitutional limits on his authority, in this case by making non-binding "executive agreements".

    • They didn't try; they succeeded. That was the change meant to be found and fixed. Now after its ratified you get to find the changes that weren't meant to be found but are far more odious.
    • by sycodon ( 149926 )

      So the whole agreement is nothing more than a suggestion. Because absent it being submitted as a Treaty, it means squat with respect to American Law.

      Obama Punked them all.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 14, 2015 @12:04PM (#51114625)

    Diplomacy at work.

  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Monday December 14, 2015 @12:08PM (#51114669) Journal
    This story perfectly illustrates why the climate agreement is completely useless.
    • by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Monday December 14, 2015 @12:20PM (#51114763)

      This story perfectly illustrates why the climate agreement is completely useless.

      The climate agreement is useless because the US energy industry has purchased Congress and has been seeding disinformation for decades.

      .

      • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Monday December 14, 2015 @12:23PM (#51114787) Journal
        I see you've fallen into the typical USian trap of thinking America is the center of the world. Hint: it's not. Not everything that happens is because of America.
        • Yes, but per-capita the US is the biggest emitter of green house gases (with Australia, and some smaller countries), therefore it is important that in the US legislation against climate change proceeds.

          • Yes, but per-capita the US is the biggest emitter of green house gases (with Australia, and some smaller countries), therefore it is important that in the US legislation against climate change proceeds.

            First, you are erroneously assuming that current emissions are what counts; in fact, historical emissions and deforestation should both count.

            Second, what doesn't matter is absolute emission, but what those emissions are used to produce. Likewise, it's easy to have low carbon emissions if your economy just do

          • by jbengt ( 874751 )
            Actually, the oil producing nations of the Mideast are the biggest emitters per capita, along with Australia, Aruba, Trinidad and Tobago, and, . . Luxembourg? of all places!
        • I see you've fallen into the typical USian trap of thinking America is the center of the world....

          Not really. I just acknowledge that the US is one of the largest emitters of climate gases and, because of that, no agreement is worth much if the US does not agree to abide by it.

        • by Altus ( 1034 )

          Oh good, I guess we don't have to do anything about this whole climate change thing then. You guys got this.

          • Nope. The whole world has to pull together if we want to reach the targets.
            • Nope. The whole world has to pull together if we want to reach the targets.

              So what's your alternative to an agreement between nations? You said it's completely useless in the root post without saying why, or what the alternative is... so what is your better idea?

              • You said it's completely useless in the root post without saying why

                I said the climate agreement is completely useless. I could have been more clear and said, "this particular climate agreement is completely useless." It especially annoys me because all the politicians are going to return home and pretend that they've done something. Nothing particular about this set of politicians, most politicians would do similar things.

                so what is your better idea?

                Rather than agreeing to nothing and pretending it was something, I would try to find something that could be done. Practically speaking, the only way to

            • Nope. The whole world has to pull together if we want to reach the targets.

              Perhaps we can just keep the temperature down around the US and our surrounding sea level won't rise. :-)

        • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

          yet this deal almost didn't happen because of a small group of GOP politicians that control the senate.

      • The climate agreement is useless because the US energy industry has purchased Congress and has been seeding disinformation for decades.

        The climate agreement is useless because voters in all rich, Western democracies would have their leaders' heads on platters if they actually mandated the kinds of economic changes that a mandatory agreement would require.

        The US energy industry doesn't care; they get their subsidies whether they ship you oil or solar cells; in fact, many fossil fuel companies have pretty muc

    • Where are my mod points ... please vote parent up. What is the point in having a treaty which everyone can just ignore!

      • This isn't a treaty, it is an expensive photo-op.

        That being said, the real point of it is to show that people can get even this far, it is a first step towards working together for the future, not the final lap.

        The idea is to start here and work towards better agreements in the future. Without the first one, you have nothing.

    • It's also useless since there have been 500 coal-fired power plants brought online in Asia in the last 9 months. Why should the US and other countries destroy their economy in the name of of a climate agreement if it's not all inclusive?

      • by aethelrick ( 926305 ) on Monday December 14, 2015 @01:02PM (#51115137)
        Hrmmm... isn't that kinda like saying, "why should I stop shitting on the pavement, other people do it?". Someone has to make a start! Also, somebody needs to provide energy in a sustainable clean manner that isn't fossil fuel. Isn't this a massive opportunity for the true capitalists out there to steal a march on the energy market? It strikes me that governments and businesses should be getting behind research into new clean electricity-centric nuclear power plants, like the LFTR. I guess whoever figures out a way to wean themselves off of fossil fuel first is going to redefine their economy (and maybe grow it hugely selling cheap energy to the rest of us?)
        • Hrmmm... isn't that kinda like saying, "why should I stop shitting on the pavement, other people do it?". Someone has to make a start!

          Politics, like medicine, should adopt the priniciple: "first, do no harm". We might be willing to agree to things that are not all that harmful (increased funding for research, monitoring, etc.). But mandatory emission caps threaten to do a large amount of harm right now, and the evidence that limiting warming to below 2C is necessary, and there is even less evidence that emi

        • That energy is not very portable as it stands. The US lacks the political will to build new clean cheap efficient reactors. We have multiple lobbies who's interests are served by raising the costs.

        • Hrmmm... isn't that kinda like saying, "why should I stop shitting on the pavement, other people do it?". Someone has to make a start!

          But there's no incentive for the others to join. If fact, it's the opposite. The countries not participating will see huge economic benefits as other countries lose their industries and jobs and move to the less-regulated counties. It's already happened before. Let's not be stupid and pretend it won't happen again.

          • The countries not participating will see huge economic benefits as other countries lose their industries and jobs and move to the less-regulated counties.

            So don't let them. Don't let capital leave the country. Establish a border between participating and non-participating countries and assing a heavy tariff for trade moving across it.

            • So don't let them. Don't let capital leave the country. Establish a border between participating and non-participating countries and assing a heavy tariff for trade moving across it.

              That sounds nice, but it really would just lead to war...

              Why do you think Japan bombed Pearl Harbor?

        • Hrmmm... isn't that kinda like saying, "why should I stop shitting on the pavement, other people do it?". Someone has to make a start!

          Yes, but that start has to be enforcement, not random actions.

          If 500 people take a dump in the swimming pool, and you don't, the pool is still full of crap.

          If even HALF the people stop doing it, the pool is STILL full of crap.

          You have to be able to have a rule that says NO ONE can take a dump in the pool, or none of it matters.

    • This story perfectly illustrates why the climate agreement is completely useless.

      Oh yeah? Looks like Barry & Barney were right after all. There have been ZERO terrorist attacks in Europe or the United States since they signed this sucker!

  • What I find amusing is the comparison to everything being said and done about climate change and all those evil masterminds from scifi, fantasy, and comic books hell-bent on world domination by trying to manipulate the weather. It never works out well for them.

  • It's Happening (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by p0p0 ( 1841106 )
    Worldwide communism. It's finally happening. What a time to be alive!
  • The worlds most useless word.

  • I watched as some in the media applauded this agreement. It's simple to get agreement when everyone realized that you've got a completely unenforceable document. One that will bring change only to those who willfully wanted it anyway. I'm putting my money on no meaningful outcome...nothing that impacts climate change, or any action on the part of the U.S., China, or Russia. Call me back in five years and we can see if I'm Nostradamus.

  • Shame they can't just run `svn blame climate_change.doc` and figure out who's trying to be tricky...

  • From the title here: "A Typo Almost Derailed Paris Climate Deal"

    To "derail" something implies that it was on the rails. It never was, and it still is not. The only thing these parties of this "agreement" have "agreed" upon is that they'll make a big dog-and-pony show for their political constituents. Mr. Kerry: declaring oneself to be responsible and caring does not make one so.

  • The intention of the summit was to provide an unenforceable agreement so that current administrations around the world could claim they "care and are doing something".
  • by hsthompson69 ( 1674722 ) on Monday December 14, 2015 @01:55PM (#51115653)

    When they literally have to fix an "agreement" so that it isn't enforceable, is it really an agreement?

    Maybe it would be better termed a "wishlist".

  • Because countries nowadays comply with international law.
  • Seriously, why not just do the obvious little things and call it good enough?
  • What language is the agreement written in? Sure, it can be translated; but there must be one language which is the 'officlal' version. If you have more than one you run into problems because the two never precisely agree.

    And how does a government of a country agree to an agreement written in a foreign language?

  • by CauseBy ( 3029989 ) on Monday December 14, 2015 @03:31PM (#51116473)

    How the hell do we continue to write legislation (and agreements) without using git?

    git blame Paris_Accord.txt

    This would tell you everything you need to know about who changed that word.

    Can someone please tell lawmakers that this is a solved problem? I keep seeing stories that like "someone slipped in a rider to this bill, but we don't know who did it". Don't know!? What the hell are you talking about? How can you possibly not know?

  • by blindseer ( 891256 ) <blindseer@earth[ ]k.net ['lin' in gap]> on Monday December 14, 2015 @09:05PM (#51118545)

    What is a "green" environmentalist on the outside but a "red" communist on the inside?

    This climate change summit is just an excuse for poor nations to demand more and more money from wealthier nations. They will claim this is to build "green" energy sources and provide accommodations for those displaced by the effects of climate change but in reality it will just line the pockets of the dictators that run these backward hell holes.

    This summit is a bunch of watermelons getting together to make themselves look like they are going to save the world from the knuckle dragging troglodytes that actually built the buildings, farmed the food, and drilled the oil that made this summit possible. The solution to this problem isn't taking from the rich and giving to the poor, as if the wealthy nations don't already send billions of dollars to poorer nations every year. The solution is more freedom.

    I believe a large part of the poverty in these poor nations is dictators stealing from the populace. People that don't have the freedom to benefit from their labors tend not to work very hard. People that are not free to defend their own property and lives from thugs and the government (but I repeat myself) cannot build up the wealth needed to create a functioning economy.

    (In case anyone is confused about what I mean by defending life and property I mean that people are permitted to arm themselves with effective tools of self defense, and carry them freely no matter where they go. Given the technology we have today that means firearms, but just being able to carry a sword or club may be sufficient.)

    Most of all people need to be free to take advantage of the most abundant energy resource we have on this earth. That means nuclear power. As it is right now any nation that wishes to develop nuclear energy must be granted permission to do so by those that have already developed it. This "non-proliferation treaty" is supposedly about preventing the development of nuclear weapons but it has effectively only prevented the development of peaceful nuclear power. Those nations that have the desire to obliterate their neighbors under a radioactive mushroom cloud will not be deterred by such a treaty. Those that wish to provide their children with food, warmth, shelter, and education are being held back. These nations must choose between a certain death by not burning oil and coal, or the possibility of living by doing so.

    The only way to avoid this dilemma is nuclear power.

    Wind and solar power is nice for wealthy nations to experiment with since they already have benefited from centuries of burning coal and decades of nuclear power. Current wind and solar technologies are too expensive for these poor nations to have that luxury. They will either have to develop nuclear power, burn coal, or continue living a second class existence.

    I get so frustrated with these watermelons. They claim to be so righteous and helpful but in reality all they are doing is spending other people's money on things that do nothing to address the real issues that brought them to the summit. I have little doubt that this is by design. If they actually solved the problem then that means these "elites" will no longer remain in power. That is because the people they claim to be helping will be free enough to not have to go to these "elites" to ask for more of their "help" in the future.

What this country needs is a dime that will buy a good five-cent bagel.

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