Listening, ambition and compromise sum up COP21 presidency

Climate disruption/COP21 – Interview given by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, President of COP21, to the daily newspaper Le Monde

Paris, 7 June 2015

G7 summit/targets/initiatives

Q. – The G7 summit in Elmau, Germany, on 7 and 8 June plans a broad focus on climate challenges. What can we expect?

THE MINISTER – We’d like to see the adoption of the global target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40-70% between 2010 and 2050, a target defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, and compatible with 2ºC, the threshold beyond which the scientific community warns of the irreversible effects of global warming. In the run-up to the Paris Conference in December – the 21st Conference of the Parties or COP21 – it’s very important for the G7 countries, which are among the world’s richest, to commit to decarbonization by the end of the century. The second target concerns finance. The more contacts we have with poor countries and developing countries, the more we delve into the issue, the more we note that the issue of finance will be decisive for COP21. Finally, it would be desirable for this G7 meeting to enable us to launch two concrete initiatives: the widespread adoption of alert systems in the face of disasters affecting the most vulnerable countries, and a major renewable energy investment plan for the African continent.

Q. – When could this alert system and this investment plan see the light of day?

THE MINISTER – At the end of June the Minister of State for Development and Francophony, Annick Girardin, is going to bring together a group of the most interested countries and of potential donors, not limited to the G7, to begin initiatives without delay. The point of implementation of the Paris Conference in December is 2020. But 2020 is already a very long way off. A lot of leaders are asking me: what do we do between 2015 and 2020? These two initiatives may strengthen the credibility of the whole climate negotiation process.

Emissions reduction pledges

Q. – Canada has presented a national scenario for reducing polluting emissions by 30% by 2030 compared to 2005, which is regarded as very poor. How do you persuade this bad G7 pupil to go further?

THE MINISTER – It’s not for me to give marks. I have confidence in the discussion, in the collective intelligence. The Canadian government has indeed shown reservations, but the premiers of several states have taken very progressive stances, like the Premier of Quebec and the recently-elected Premier of Alberta.

Q. – Japan should make its contribution – i.e. its greenhouse gas emissions reduction commitments – official during the G7 summit. In total, only about 40 countries have come forward. Is this delay not damaging?

THE MINISTER – The countries which have presented their contributions so far account for between 30% and 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions. By COP21, we should reach at least 90% of global emissions, but when they’re added together we’ll be above the 2ºC threshold, the experts say. There will no doubt be an additional effort to make over time. So we’re going to have to find a mechanism for periodically reassessing these commitments, bearing in mind the 2ºC target. And we’ll also have to take into account technological progress, which will be considerable, as well as additional, non-state pledges. The fight against climate disruption isn’t a 100-metre sprint, it’s a marathon.

Climate finance/Green Climate Fund

Q. – The fight against global warming is also an obstacle course where you can run up against the issue of finance for climate policies…

THE MINISTER – A promise was made by the rich countries at the Copenhagen conference in 2009: to make $100 billion – €90 billion – of public and private finance available to developing countries every year by 2020. Even if you look at the controversies over the assessment of the sums available today, this promise is the basis of the trust between the 196 members of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). For many countries, finance is a condition, a key point, for an agreement in Paris. So it’s crucial for the G7 countries to respect these funding needs and, if necessary, meet them. A lot of countries whose leaders I meet are expecting the G7 to make a strong commitment to the fight against climate disruption. These requesting countries must be reassured that these aren’t empty promises but money that will help us transform our economies.

Q. – The Green [Climate] Fund, one of the special vehicles for achieving that $100 billion, has been promised $10 billion in public funding over four years (2015-2018). Is this package sufficient?

THE MINISTER – More than 50% of the $10 billion has been delivered – the prerequisite for it to start working. It will no doubt take its first concrete decisions around October, before COP21 opens. More broadly, you can sense a trend in our societies and in various financial institutions – public, private, banking or not – towards increasingly bringing this climate dimension into the financing of the economy. A few days ago, the ratings agency Standard & Poor’s decided to include climate risk in companies’ ratings and, if necessary, in countries’ ratings. That’s a strong signal.

UN role

Q. – During the G7 summit, a new session of negotiations on the climate is under way in Bonn. Must the UN’s working method be reformed, as Ségolène Royal is demanding?

THE MINISTER – The UN Framework Convention is an international treaty. It’s true that you can put forward ideas on how things should operate ideally, but more than 20 years ago international society chose this 196-strong negotiation framework; it must be taken into account.

Q. – On opening the Bonn session, you put forward the idea of a preliminary agreement on the climate in October. What’s that about?

THE MINISTER – A text must emerge from the final session of negotiations in October. What I meant was that we must hope a lot of issues, including difficult ones, will have been examined and even decided on by then. Legally speaking, it’s at the Paris summit that an agreement must be finalized, but we’re going to do everything to ensure that the work is at a very advanced stage before COP21 opens./.

Climate disruption/COP21/working group session on the Durban Platform – Press conference given by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, President of COP21 (excerpts)

Paris, 1 June 2015


I have come – quite rightly – because the Durban Platform, ADP, is absolutely central in preparing what we hope will be a successful COP21 in Paris. This group isn’t known to the general public, but the nature of the way things work means that in order to prepare for the agreement we’re hoping for, the 196 parties – because there are 196 of us – must discuss the text which will be presented to us. It’s in these ADP sessions, in accordance with the decisions taken at international level, that this discussion can take place.

In the days to come, there will be huge amount of work to do in considering, one by one, the different issues raised and getting a text which is both concise and starts to resolve a number of issues. Other ADP sessions will take place at the end of August and in October. In the meantime, there will be ministerial meetings and, of course, a number of meetings at the United Nations, and then on different continents.

The ADP’s role is extremely useful. The two co-chairs and I pointed out that we’re relying a great deal on the delegates here to prepare this work. This morning, I explained to all the delegates how we’re preparing for the presidency. There’s a presidency approach. The three watchwords are: “listening” – every party must be listened to; “ambition”, because the Paris agreement has to have a certain level of ambition; and “compromise”, because obviously if we want to find points of agreement between 196 parties, there has to be a spirit of compromise.

And we must also, of course, meticulously prepare for what will be done in Paris, which will be based on four major points.

The first, which is essential, is about finding an agreement that’s universal, has legal force, can take on board the differences and is lasting, i.e. we don’t have to go back to redrafting this agreement every two or three years.

The second element is that we’ll no doubt talk on the occasion – as we will incidentally throughout the year – about finance. I’ve just come from a meeting with our African friends, who told me lots of interesting things, particularly that the issue of finance was decisive. So it will be discussed in Paris, but it will also be discussed beforehand.

There’s a third, very important aspect: in Paris – and beforehand – we’ll have the INDCs, the contributions from the different governments. So on the basis of the report to be produced by the Framework Convention Secretariat, we can have a number of discussions on what the totals of these contributions are.

And also – this is very novel, it’s the first time – Peru proposed an initiative, agreed by France, then finally agreed by everyone: the Lima-Paris [Action] Agenda and the Agenda of Solutions, where there are non-state actors, i.e. local authorities, big corporations, organizations, civil society, which are going to make a contribution, because if we want to move towards combating climate disruption, everyone obviously has to get started.

I’m often asked the question: “are you expecting a success…?”. Of course, we’re working on this; we know it’s extremely tough. If it weren’t tough, we would have already had, in the past, a universal agreement. We’ve never had one. We know it’s tough but, with this in mind, each of us is putting all our energy into achieving success. (…)./.

Climate disruption/COP21/opening ceremony of the session of the Working Group on the Durban Platform – Speech by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, President of COP21

Bonn, 1 June 2015

[In English:] Dear Christina,

Mr Ambassador, who is representing Minister Manuel,

Dear delegates,

Now, I turn to French.

Run-up to COP21/Paris Climate Alliance

[In French:] I’m happy to be with you today for the opening of this working session, which is so important for making progress towards the success we’d all like to see for COP21 in Paris.

We’re halfway through a year, 2015, throughout which the focus is on development and the climate. Among the many very important international meetings taking place this year, we’ll have the Addis Ababa conference in July on Financing for Development, the New York summit in September on Sustainable Development Goals, and finally COP21 in Paris in December. We have the collective responsibility to define an international framework of action that can reconcile everyone’s aspiration to prosperity with the natural limits of our planet.

What I want to tell you is the following: we must prepare these landmark meetings so that they are interlinked. I’m convinced, like all of you here, that we won’t win the battle for development and for eliminating poverty without winning the battle against global warming.

Dear friends, what would we like for Paris? To build together a Paris Climate Alliance enabling us to limit the planet’s average temperature rise to less than 2ºC or 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels. An alliance that can give a clear signal to our fellow citizens around the world, our local authorities and our businesses, that we’re making a resolute transition towards lower-carbon economies while guaranteeing everyone fair access to sustainable development.

I often present this Paris Alliance as having four aspects.

Paris climate agreement

To begin with, the first aspect – and it’s absolutely essential – is a universal and legally binding agreement in accordance with a legal formula to be defined on the basis of the COP’s mandate in Durban. This agreement will have to concern mitigation and adaptation, a priority for all countries which are already feeling the impact of climate disruption, sometimes in a tragic way. The agreement will also have to take into account everyone’s responsibilities and capabilities, which are changing. It will have to be long-term and establish a process of cooperation between us in order to reinforce our collective effort and progressively achieve our shared long-term target, which we must try to specify. That’s the first [aspect], which is clearly essential and which you’re all working on effectively here.

Nationally Determined Contributions

The second aspect is the [Intended] Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). Some countries have already presented them. In the preparations for Paris, it’s important for each country to be able to present its national contribution, with commitments on mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, but also with adaptation plans. That’s the second aspect which we’ll be looking at in Paris and on which the Convention Secretariat will be reporting.


The third aspect to our alliance – and it’s absolutely essential – is resources: financial, technological and in terms of strengthening the capabilities to be deployed. On finance, we must create confidence that the commitment made in Copenhagen in 2009 to mobilize $100 billion a year by 2020 for developing countries – and some of that $100 billion will go through the Green [Climate] Fund – will indeed be honoured. More broadly, we must establish the rules and incentives to enable a profound redirection of public and private capital flows towards the low-carbon economy. And I stress this issue of finance and technology, because we’re well aware that it determines many things.

Lima-Paris Action Agenda

Finally, the fourth aspect of the Paris Alliance is the Lima-Paris Action Agenda, which aims to involve non-state actors, i.e. local authorities, businesses and voluntary organizations so that they too can make commitments – I emphasize this – in support of, not instead of, those made by states, so as to reinforce our collective effort, particularly – and this will be an important point – even before 2020. Together with Peru, we intend to present to you the state of progress of this aspect early in the afternoon. Manuel has just sent us a message – I echo his terms – of hope and optimism. I want to pay tribute to him and his whole Peruvian team, because they’ve done a magnificent job. In our last conversation he told me something that struck me very much: at every meeting there must be further progress. I think that’s an idea we must bear in mind.

Dear friends, on each of the points I’ve just mentioned, we must make progress even before the Paris conference. And with less than 200 days to go until COP21, each meeting must move a step closer to the Paris agreement.

Thanks to your efforts over recent years, today we have a draft agreement, but as everyone knows it’s a long text, and on several points it hasn’t yet made choices. So we must make choices.

I have total confidence in the ability of the co-chairs, Ahmed Djoghlaf and Dan Reifsnyder – to whom I want to pay tribute – to facilitate and guide our work.

ADP’s work

Here, in June, we must move forwards on three aspects:

- distinguishing the scope of the legal instrument itself from the scope of the COP decisions;

- simplifying and managing to shorten the text of the future agreement, beginning by formulating the measures on which consensus emerges and identifying the broad, more political options, on which the ministers will have to decide;

- and also, of course, preparing a decision on action even before 2020, with a view to its adoption in Paris.

As future President of COP21, I’m entirely at your service – along with my team and particularly my negotiator, Laurence Tubiana – to support the negotiation process. And I’d like to take this opportunity to give you a bit more detail here about how we see this presidency role and how we’re going to prepare things, if you like, together.

At every stage we intend to cooperate with our Peruvian friends, because we have a lot to learn from their presidency of COP20, but also – as everyone will understand – because it’s important to remember that the countries of the North and South can and must work together to take up what is a shared challenge. And we must also prepare things with Morocco, with a view to COP22.

We’ll be listening to every country, small and large, rich and poor, obviously paying closer, more special attention to the countries which are most vulnerable, most exposed to the effects of climate disruption that we’re already experiencing. Along with the French President, we and I began several months ago – and we’re going to continue – listening to all parties, in order to clearly understand your ideas, your expectations and everyone’s concerns.

We’ll also have to ensure that all the observers in this process can speak out, because their contribution is of great value.

I know I can count on you, not only to defend the interests of your country or your group but also to show [a willingness to] compromise in order to reach an agreement commensurate with the climate threat affecting us all.

And in exchange, I’ll need your trust to prepare and chair the conference in a spirit of impartiality, transparency – because that’s essential for building trust – and ambition.

The timetable? You know better than anyone how complicated the climate negotiations are, so we can’t leave it until the last minute to prepare and obtain the balanced and ambitious agreement we need. And clearly, I don’t want to have to pull a text out of my hat: on the contrary.

So the goal is for us together to reach a preliminary agreement in October in the framework of the ADP group. COP21 would then enable us to put the finishing touches to it and deal with any outstanding points, but on the basis of a solid text that is clear to everyone.

To facilitate your work, we’ve started and are going to continue, with Peru, organizing informal consultations on the most difficult issues. These meetings will always be open to everyone who wishes to take part, and out of a concern for transparency but also effectiveness we’ll be regularly reporting on them to the ADP group, because transparency is an essential condition for trust between us.

There have already been two initial meetings: in Lima in March and then Paris in May. They allowed us to identify possible areas of mutual understanding on questions of adaptation and ambition. Our Peruvian colleagues and Ambassador Tubiana will report back to you on the discusssions opening the ADP session later.

I’d also like to get the discussions with my minister colleagues moving more quickly. I’ve scheduled a first ministerial meeting in Paris for 20 and 21 July, then a second for 7 September, still in Paris. These consultations should allow us to make progress on very delicate issues so that your work in the ADP group framework is made easier.

Heads of state and government/COP21 involvement

I’m often asked about the involvement of heads of state and government. On the one hand, we know that this involvement must be subject to many precautions, because the negotiations may be very technical – it isn’t the role of heads of state and government to give an opinion on technical points. But on the other hand, on a subject as important as climate disruption, we need clear, political guidance at the highest level, giving a strong mandate to the negotiators, then the ministers who will be taking part in COP21.

And in these circumstances, we envisage a meeting of heads of state and government in New York this September, on the occasion of the United Nations General Assembly, with the French President and the United Nations Secretary-General – who are heavily involved in this battle for the planet – and undoubtedly [we envisage] the attendance of those heads of state and government who so wish at the opening of COP21, if they want to confirm the political momentum.

But the responsibility for concluding the negotiations in Paris will lie with the ministers, and I’d like, in cooperation with the secretary of the conference and particularly Christina Figueres – to whom I pay very warm tribute – to involve them at the end of COP21’s first week.

I wanted to give you these indications, which aren’t yet decisions, to give an idea of the timetable we’re working to.

COP21/private sector mobilization/ADP’s work

I now want to conclude. As I meet my opposite numbers from different countries, local authority leaders, business chiefs, civil society representatives and ordinary citizens, I’m struck – like you are, I think – by the growing mobilization on this and the unanimous determination to succeed.

How many times have I heard these words: a COP21 failure would be tragic, [both] in itself and because it would also strike a blow – maybe a fatal one – at the very process of discussion; and so we absolutely need Paris to be a success.

At climate consultations with the private sector held in Paris in the middle of May I was able, among other things, to witness the growing mobilization of the private sector. Economic players are developing future solutions, they’re committing themselves to collaborative, sector-based initiatives, but they – naturally – expect strong political signals to speed up the process, particularly on the so-called carbon price issue.

Businesses, local authorities, NGOs, citizens: everyone is doing their share of the work and they rightly expect us – and we aren’t going to disappoint them – to do ours. Here in Bonn, we’re going to step up a gear. Concepts, ideas, proposals have been clarified as much as they can be; they feature in the very wide-ranging text resulting from our last meeting in Geneva. We must now move forward in order to take decisions.

We’ve got two weeks of work. That might seem a long time, but it’s actually terribly short because it’s a huge amount of work. I want to congratulate and express my complete confidence in the co-chairs, the chairs of the subsidiary bodies, the facilitators, every delegate, all of you. The work of the ADP group is little known, at times even little understood, in the outside world. But all of us here know that the work here is absolutely essential. It isn’t any old work, but, for most of you, it’s about lifelong conviction and work. You and we together have a major responsibility.

I wish us an excellent working session because I’m convinced that the vital success of COP21 depends in large part on each and every one of you./.

Dernière modification : 23/09/2015

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