Minister sets out climate challenges for Paris summit

Climate disruption/COP21 – Speech by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, President of COP21, at the High-level Event on Climate Change organized at the United Nations (excerpts)

New York, 29 July 2015

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Global warming/impact

The time when climate change and its human origin could be questioned is now totally finished. It is now clear that we know.

We know the devastating effects of global warming greater than 1.5°C or 2°C. We know not only the climate effects but also those on public health, development, security and peace. We also know the very positive effects that successful action in moving towards a new, lower-carbon economy will have on sustainable growth.

Here at the United Nations, the international community has been facing complex, often extremely serious crises for 70 years now, although those have been restricted to particular geographical areas. We know that, with climate disruption, the threat is now global and that no region, none whatsoever, could escape the consequences of our inaction.

Climate action/COP21

We also know where we stand, five months ahead of COP21. To sum it up, on the plus side, drawing on the achievements of previous COP sessions, including the Lima one, we are seeing real determination on the part of countries to achieve an ambitious, universal agreement in Paris. We are also seeing the commitment of countries which are major emitters of carbon dioxide to the same end, and many businesses, local government bodies and financial institutions – who also need to participate in action with many national and international meetings to move forward – are showing unprecedented awareness. We also have the essential support of the scientific community and the highest spiritual and moral authorities. We are seeing personal leadership from a number of eminent leaders, and I would like to pay tribute to the United Nations Secretary General, who stands out among them. And we also know we have great support from the general public, particularly from young people and civil society and its organizations. We know that all this is very positive, meaning we can hope that 2015 will see three joint global successes: in Addis Ababa for development financing, in New York for the [Sustainable] Development Goals, and in Paris for the climate.

However, as we are realistic, myself included, and as the modest future host of COP21, we know that the task is extremely complicated. We know the work which still needs to be completed in very little time. We know what obstacles we need to overcome and the lessons we need to learn from the past, particularly this one: the main decisions need to be prepared carefully in advance, which is why, as the Secretary-General put it, we need to accelerate. Lastly, we know that global warming itself and its dramatic consequences are continuing, since 2014 will go down as the hottest on record, surpassed only, perhaps, by 2015.

All in all, knowing all this, like you, I am convinced of something, which I would like to share with you: the Paris agreement is essential and is only possible upon one condition: that it respects what is generally called justice.

Climate justice

First and foremost, justice means fairness in efforts. We are aware that our past and present respective responsibilities for the degradation of the climate are not identical. We know that our abilities to reduce emissions are not identical either. It then follows that national differences will have to be taken into account in the agreement.

We know that justice is also about financial solidarity, and I would add technological solidarity. A commitment was made by the developed countries: every year, $100 billion of public and private financing should be raised by 2020 for the poorest and most vulnerable countries as a priority. That commitment must be kept. That is why further efforts are required in terms of financing and the transfer of technologies.

Lastly, as we know, justice means giving central importance to “adaptation” to the effects of climate change, and not only to “mitigation”. As has very rightly been said, the main challenge for many countries is to address the consequences of climate disruption, which are already occurring. For example, to protect themselves against rising sea levels, organize better water management in drought-ridden agricultural areas, or generalize early warning systems for climate disasters. The Paris agreement will have to provide concrete solutions, without waiting until 2020.

So fairness, financial solidarity and adaptation are vital. I would like to add the requirement that the Paris agreement be sustainable, i.e. extendable beyond 2030, and that it should encourage us to consistently revise our goals upwards, as Paris should be as much a beginning as an accomplishment.

In such conditions of confidence and transparency, and since now we know all this, I hope to be able to say the following six words on your behalf in five months’ time: “the Paris agreement has been adopted”. But that now depends on each and every one of us. Thank you./.

Published on 20/07/2015

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