Climate change - COP21 - Press briefing by Laurent Fabius , Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development , President of the COP21 (New York, June 29, 2015)
Hello everybody. I am here for the day. I was yesterday in Vienna for the negotiation about nuclear program of Iran and it was forecast that I would be here today because we have an important meeting about the COP21, and as I will chair the COP21, the Chairman of the General Assembly and Ban Ki-moon asked me to be here. I will make a statement this morning, I think with other colleagues and then I will take the opportunity to meet series of colleagues involved in climate change, , attend a meeting and then I will be back tonight for Paris because we have a lot of things to do. And I will be back in Vienna during this week. Meanwhile we shall welcome the Chinese Prime Minister who is arriving in Paris tomorrow morning. This will be a busy week. I am open to your questions, mainly about climate change, because it is the aim of my visit here. But I imagine that maybe because you are curious, there will be other subjects.
Q - Yesterday the big developing countries - Brazil, India, China, South Africa, Mexico - released a statement appointing to the lack of any clear roadmap on developed countries in terms of funding and financial support for the developing world. They talked about a hundred billion per year by 2020. What is France going to do as chair of COP21 to ensure that you have a deal on the table?
R - In fact, in the COP21 in Paris, there will be four different pillars. The main one is to try to get an agreement, the first agreement, universal agreement in order to be under 1.5 or 2 degrees. It is a text that we have to coin. It is rather complex. Today it is discussed but it is too long and there are many breakouts. But the aim and the success of the Paris conference will be - and I hope that it will be the case and we are working very hard for that - that we can get for the first time an universal agreement. First pillar.
Second pillar, what we call INDC (Intended Nationally Determined Contribution): every single country must deliver its commitment for the future. Europe has already delivered its commitment for the 28 countries. The US have done so, many countries have done so. And probably China will do it today or in this coming week. Step by step the different countries will deliver. It is very important because it gives the commitments of the Nations and it is not included in the Paris agreement but obviously it accompanies it. Second.
Third, finance and technology, I will come back to it in a second.
And four - for the first time - what we call the Agenda for Action or Lima-Paris Agenda. What does it mean? It means that we shall take advantage of the COP21 in order to ask many local authorities, many companies and civil society to take commitment as well. Many of them are doing that right now. It will be the first time and obviously it is very important because the decisions regarding climate change depend mainly on the local authorities and on the companies as well. These are the three pillars.
The fourth one is finance and technology. Because many countries, and they are right to say so, say «OK, it is good, we are committed to act, but where is the finance ?» And in particular, some countries say «all of us are committed but there are different responsibilities». It is particularly the case for instance for African countries. They say «OK we are not contributing to green gas emissions but we are the first victims and therefore there is an enormous paradox and it is not fair». Therefore they are asking for money and technologies as well. It is perfectly true that in Copenhagen a commitment has been taken to deliver by 2020 one hundred billion dollars a year, mainly by the rich countries towards the poor countries, or the developing countries. It is clear that we have to implement this commitment. Some countries, and it is your question, said «ok, some efforts have been done, but it is not enough». We are discussing that right now. Maybe you have seen that recently there has been a G7 meeting where the richest countries have once again said we shall deliver. Germany announced 2 billion euros or dollars as new efforts. There has been the so-called green climate fund where we have put money. For instance France has put one billion euros and step by step the amount of money is increasing. Be careful, it is not only public money. Sometimes there is confusion. It is public and private. It is budgetary money and also non budgetary money. But it is very true that if we want to have a fair deal, we have to be more and more precise on this issue. And in the statement that I will deliver at the UN this morning as chair of the COP21, I will say that very precisely.
Q - On COP, March was the deadline when countries were encouraged to submit their final plans. It is almost July and we haven’t got India, Japan, Australia (inaudible). When do you get to the point where you get worried that you are not going to have enough countries with robust plans to come to a meaningful agreement?
R - Obviously the sooner the better and the UN Secretary General has written a few weeks ago to everybody reminding them of the commitment. I don’t exactly remember the wording of the Lima agreement but it was said the limit is probably September or October, I don’t remember. As soon as possible if it is possible. Obviously as chairman of the COP21 it is my position as well. The sooner is the better.
Now, there are some countries, for which from a technical point of view it is not easy - for instance all the Africans countries with very small technical means - and it is the reason why different institutions among them French institutions have proposed to them both financing and technical assistance in order for them to decide. Because you know for the first time it is not easy to say «this is where I will be in 2030 in terms of gas emission», it is not easy. For other countries the reason is not technical but it is true that it is the first time that we negociate that kind of agreement but we hope that the maximum will be delivered as soon as possible.
Q - Minister, one more on climate. About a month ago, several of the oil majors based in Europe have written a letter saying they are against supporting a carbon pricing. How much impact at all is that having on the negotiations, and is there any hope or effort to get the big American companies, Exxon, Chevron on board ?
R - Thank you, because, you are right to notice that there has been a big shift, a big shift, in the business community about this climate issue. And there are different reasons to that: first, I would like to pay tribute to the scientific community because they have done a terrible job here in the UN. A few years ago, when you were discussing about climate, half of the audience would have said: does it exist, climate change? And if it exists, has it a relationship with human action? Today, we know. And therefore, we have to pay tribute to the scientific community.
Q - But the oil companies in particular?
R - Yes, and obviously, the more the governments are convinced and acting into that direction, the more the scientific community is delivering clear messages, the more the business community is taking that into consideration. And there are different factors and different signs which all go in the same direction. When S andP, not only says, but acts in such a way, that there is now a climate risk, with what it means in terms of financial cost, it matters. When the oil companies say that is a real problem and we would like carbon pricing. When the largest financial fund in the world, which is Norwegian, decides to abandon its investments in carbon economy, it means that really, things are changing, and it’s very important, because apart from the public financing, what will be decisive, it’s the decisions which will be taken directly, either by the companies or by the local authorities, New York, California, in order to have less and less a carbon economy. And it could not have been imagined two years ago.
Obviously, you are familiar with that, but a few weeks ago, we had a meeting in Paris with a lot of large companies, and financial agencies, and what we listened to was unbelievable compared to what we were listening to, only one year ago. And moreover now, it can seem different, but it’s important too, we have highly spiritual authorities, like the Pope and some other high-level personalities, explaining why it is so important. You have the general public; you have also universities here, which have decided in their endowments to act in such a way. The other day, I was discussing in Paris with Bill Gates in that direction, he was insisting on innovation. All of that is coming into the right direction. But, it remains very difficult. It will be my task. Because when you have in December, at the end of the COP21, a text, a long text, and you ask to the 196 parties «do you accept it?»….therefore, it’s very difficult, but it’s worthwhile. And we are doing all that we can - France - in order to facilitate things.
Q - Any efforts to get American oil companies to make similar gesture?
R - The more they will be, the better it is.
Q - How concerned are you that the Americans are so desperate for an Iran deal? Are they willing to agree on something less than robust?
R - No, I wouldn’t put this in these words. First, because it is not the way I think. And second, I happen to be a diplomat.
Q - When are you going to Vienna?
R - When it is necessary. Anytime. This week, sure.
Q - How long is the extension?
R - We agreed not to set a date.
Q - You said that there are going to be private and budgetary…
R - Public and private fund
Q - Is it up to each county to decide where the funding is coming from?
R - No, what has been decided in Copenhagen, it is that everybody can give obviously, but it’s mainly the so-called rich and developed countries. There is no such thing as a law saying what «the US must give this, etc». We had decided something, and it was very positive, in the G7 in Germany a few weeks ago. We are consulting on this. And it will be a very important element for the reasons I explained.