Paris 2015 | COP 21 - Speech by Laurent Fabius, French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development President of COP21 (30 November, 2015)
President of the French Republic,
Secretary-General of the United Nations,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Last week, knowing that I would be presiding over COP21, all those people I met asked me the same question: will the Paris Climate Conference be a success?
The first condition for that success has been fulfilled thanks to you. Almost 150 of you, Heads of State and Government, are gathered here despite the tragedy. And across the Conference site, several thousand delegates and civil society leaders are present, while millions more are active around the world. Through your mobilization, you show that civilization and solidarity are stronger than barbarism. Thank you.
I am confident that the second condition for success will also be fulfilled. We wanted to bring together the world’s non-governmental stakeholders for the climate, including cities, regions, businesses, non-governmental organizations, social and economic forces, and citizens. In liaison with the UN, of which the Secretary-General has been fully mobilized, the organization of this Conference was built with this in mind: the decisions of the Governments are crucial, but those of non-governmental stakeholders are too. On this very spot, in the coming hours and days, important, concrete commitments will be announced by hundreds of local government bodies and businesses. Powerful initiatives will be launched, sometimes in the framework of public-private partnership, such as in the area of innovation for clean technologies, solar energy and carbon pricing. All these actions are promising for the fight against global warming. That fight is both a vital constraint and an essential opportunity for sustainable development that reconciles economics, ethics and ecology.
The third condition is the most difficult: it is that we reach a universal, ambitious agreement at the end of this Conference, in just 11 days’ time. This agreement will need to be differentiated, fair, sustainable, dynamic, balanced and legally binding, and will need to ensure that, in 2020, the global temperature does not rise by 2°C – or even 1.5°C – compared to the pre-industrial era because of greenhouse gas emissions. Each of these terms refers to specific provisions on which we have been unable to conclude fully in the past. That is the challenge of the discussions our ministers and negotiators will carry out. We must not waste time in procedural debates. We need to handle the substantive issues and find solutions together. As President of COP21, I will have to listen to you all, to be impartial, and to act for an ambitious compromise.
There are several encouraging signs. Awareness that a universal agreement is indispensable has progressed a great deal, spurred on by the fact that 2014 was the hottest year on record, and that 2015 will be worse. The work of scientists has established unquestionably the diagnosis and the prognosis. The commitment of major spiritual and religious leaders is powerful, and that of governments is generally moving in the right direction.
This is demonstrated by the number of national contributions published by States – those INDCs. To date, 183 INDCs have been published, representing more than 95% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Yes, their ambition varies, but the very fact that almost every country has carried out this step shows a remarkable progression, and allows us to anticipate the progress that will be necessary in the future. For be warned! The total of these contributions does divert us away from the 4°C, 5°C or 6°C of warming predicted by the IPCC in scenarios of inaction, but will not be enough to ensure that we will stay within the 1.5°C or 2°C ceiling. This is why the periodical stock-taking and ratcheting-up mechanisms, that I hope we will be able to include in our agreement, are crucial
Lastly, I would like to underline one aspect: a global climate agreement is not just some requirement that the developed countries seek to impose upon developing countries. No, it is a universal necessity which we need to address together. Climate solidarity needs to move forward, as does the mobilization of financing and technologies for the countries of the South. The Paris agreement also needs to be a pact for justice and against inequalities. As President of this Conference, my role will be to ensure that.
On all these points, we would like – my minister and negotiator colleagues and myself – you to give the vital political momentum needed on this first day, for your statements to be so strong that they make any outcome other than success impossible!
At the end of 2016, France will hand over to our Moroccan friends, just as we have taken over from our Peruvian friends, who have accomplished remarkable work. But this year, in 2015, matters are urgent. Indeed, greenhouse gases continue to accumulate in the atmosphere, to the extent that, if no action is taken – or action is taken too late – the situation will be irreversible. Here and now, there is particular momentum. It was to this Conference, here and now, that the Durban COP in 2011 specifically entrusted the task of reaching an agreement. COP21 needs to be a tipping point, a turning point. The Paris Conference will no doubt not resolve everything, but nothing can be resolved without it.
At this very moment, I have in mind, and at heart, the stories and the faces I have encountered in recent months while preparing the Conference. In Bangladesh, an old lady, tired and dignified, who has had to move nine times because of flooding, asked if COP21 would change that. In the far North, I have in mind the engineer who showed me the devastating collapses of the ice pack and their consequences. In Cochabamba, a Bolivian peasant farmer cried over the damage caused by failure to look after Mother Earth, hoping he could trust us. And in Africa, there was a young woman – for women and the poor are the first victims – who described the spectacular drying up of Lake Chad and its dreadful consequences. Their lives, and those of hundreds of millions of our brothers and sisters in humanity, depend on our answers and our commitments here.
At the entrance to this room, you may have seen, up high, a vast photograph. It symbolizes the stakes of our Conference. On the left of the photo is a tree that has lost all its leaves, replaced with plastic bags, a sort of skeleton in an environment that has become inhuman. On the right of the photo, there is the portrait of a harmonious child who awakens. And in the middle is a butterfly, bearing hope. That is where we are. Either we fail in Paris, and there will be desolation. Or we will conclude an ambitious agreement to act against global warming, and a beautiful future lies ahead.
I believe in success. I believe because I hope for it. I believe because all of us know that combating global warming is more than just an environmental matter. It is an essential condition to provide the whole world with food and water, to save biodiversity and protect health, to combat poverty and mass migration, to discourage war and foster peace, and, at the end of the day, to give sustainable development and life a chance.
Here and now, as 2015 comes to an end, it is France’s responsibility to help address two of the greatest challenges of the century: combating terrorism and fighting climate change. Today’s generations are calling upon us to act, while tomorrow’s generations will judge our action. We cannot hear them yet, but in a way they are already watching us. The word “historic” is often a hyperbole. Today, it is not. Together, let us make the Paris Climate Conference the historic success the world is waiting for.