The historic climate change deal by 196 governments to cut greenhouse gas emissions almost wasn't because of one misplaced word, Politico's Andrew Restuccia reports.
On Saturday, lawyers for President Barack Obama's administration found that the text of the agreement had been changed from saying that wealthier countries "should" set economy-wide targets for cutting greenhouse gases to "shall" set such targets. As Restuccia notes, "in the lingo of U.N. climate agreements, 'shall' implies legal obligation and 'should' does not." If the draft stayed with the "shall" obligaton, the accord would have had to go to the Republican-controlled Senate for approval--and probable, inevitable defeat. The concern was that reopening the text would swamp the entire effort, Restuccia reports, but the French hosts of the climate-change summit agreed to change the wording amid a package of technical revisions.