Ambition and compromise to mark Paris 2015 climate talks

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

Paris, 16 December 2014

Q. – Had you anticipated the scale of the differences that almost led to the failure of the Lima conference?

THE MINISTER – Fortunately I have experience in complex negotiations, so I wasn’t surprised to see differences emerge just when a decision had to be taken and nations made to commit. Those differences, which largely result from different situations, may also seem relatively normal when you remember the Copenhagen and Warsaw conferences, but an agreement was finally reached in Lima. The challenge we must take up is to prevent those differences becoming the hallmark of climate conferences and an opportunity to obstruct everything, because it’s about taking decisions that will or won’t save millions of human lives and enable humanity to create and produce without self-destructing.

Q. – Does the weakness of the results complicate preparations for the Paris conference in December 2015?

THE MINISTER – Steps forward were taken in Lima that reflect what could be expected, even though there’s still a lot to do. After the good news of recent months – the commitments announced at the New York summit, a European agreement, the Chinese-American announcement on emissions reductions, and the successful capitalization of the Green Climate Fund –, the aim of Lima was to lay the foundations to build an agreement in Paris reflecting the expectations of populations who suffer from climate disruption. We’ll have to work between now and the Paris summit on the points that are still outstanding. Our watchwords will have to be a listening ear, a spirit of compromise, and ambition. And the process will have to be given the right political impetus.

Q. – Can we continue with such a chaotic negotiation process?

THE MINISTER – The subject of the current discussions is already so complex that it would be unreasonable now to seek to change the process and method. The process isn’t perfect, everyone’s aware of that; but we must stay in the existing framework. That’s what can enable us to generate universal, effective action.

Q. – How are you going to work?

THE MINISTER – We’re going to work closely with the bodies of the [United Nations Framework] Convention on Climate [Change] and with the United Nations Secretary-General. Dialogue sessions with the various groups of countries will also be organized. And civil society. We’ll continue to work closely with the Peruvians. Our link with a country of the South is important in order to strengthen trust.

Q. – Is the goal of the Paris agreement still to keep warming below 2ºC by the end of the century?

THE MINISTER – Yes, that’s the goal, even though (and because) it’s ambitious. The experts anticipate warming of 3ºC to 4ºC, or even more. The national contributions that countries will have to make, if possible by March, should enable us to specify how we can achieve this goal.

Q. – No solid provisions were made in Lima for additional efforts to be embarked on between now and 2020, the date when the agreement comes into force. Isn’t that contradictory?

THE MINISTER – We set markers, particularly through the Lima-Paris Action Agenda initiative. There was a “Lima day of action” during which businesses, cities and regions pledged to do more, practically and quickly.

France will support this effort, which must have a real impact on the ground. That’s the whole aim of the positive agenda which we’d like to make an important element of the 2015 Paris Climate Conference.

Q. – The issue of fairness lies at the heart of all the tension. Could France take the initiative of an in-depth debate on this issue?

THE MINISTER – The issue is central. Must the developed countries be the only ones to make commitments, because of their undeniable historical responsibility for climate change? Or must this approach be changed so that the emerging countries also make commitments, and what commitments? I’m not sure one presidency will be enough to settle the debate for good. We can move forward pragmatically. That’s the approach that was chosen in Warsaw in 2013 and confirmed in Lima: the countries pledge to set out their contributions to the fight against climate disruption between now and Paris 2015. I note, moreover, that the issue didn’t prevent the United States and China making commitments together to reduce their emissions. The final agreement in Lima includes useful and new provisions in this regard./.

Published on 16/02/2016

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