Minister explains why Paris climate agreement is historic
Paris Climate Conference – Interview given by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, President of the Paris Climate Conference, to the daily newspaper Le Monde (excerpts)
Paris, 11 January 2016
Q. – The COP21 ended with a decisive climate agreement. Is your mission accomplished?
THE MINISTER – Many people thought that when I banged my small green gavel to applaud the Paris Agreement, the French presidency was over. No! We prepared the COP21 over the course of 2015. I presided over it in December. But the presidency goes on until the COP22, in Marrakesh in November 2016, where we’ll hand over to our Moroccan friends. 2015 was the year of negotiations and decisions; 2016 must be the year of implementation and action. Our diplomatic network will remain highly mobilized. (…)
Q. – Do you personally wish to see the [French] COP presidency through, to November 2016?
THE MINISTER – Of course.
Q. – Even if you decide to leave government?
THE MINISTER – I’m not getting into that speculation. At any rate, my mission as COP21 President isn’t in doubt.
Q. – The Paris Agreement is a series of principles set down on paper. How can they be made into a genuine instrument to fight climate disruption?
THE MINISTER – By converting the principles set out in Paris into concrete action. Let’s take climate finance as an example: it was decided that developed countries would mobilize after 2020 to help developing countries, going even further than the annual $100 billion, and that each will provide information about their future financial commitments; this year, we need to specify clearly how this reporting will be done. Likewise, the review of national commitments every five years is an essential clause: here, too, we’ll have to decide this year how it will be done. Another key point is that of transparency: in Paris we adopted a joint, transparent system for monitoring states’ commitments; we now have to define the specific rules for this – who is going to be in charge of it, how frequently will it be done, etc. (…)
Q. – Does the agreement which was reached following the COP21 deserve to be called historic?
THE MINISTER – The word is often overused, but here it’s deserved. Indeed, the Paris Agreement is the foremost diplomatic pact in the world and for the world. Of course, firstly and above all it concerns the climate (housing, transport, industry, agriculture etc.), but it also concerns biodiversity, water and food resources, forests, migration movements and, finally, the issue of war and peace. It translates into action and encourages – this will be irreversible – the transition from the carbon economy (coal, oil, gas), which has been the foundation of our industrial development since the 19th century, to a new low-carbon economy and renewable energy. More broadly, it aims to help our planet remain quite simply fit for human life. Without wishing to sound pompous, because of its subject it’s the most important international agreement of the early 21st century.
Q. – You talk about a break with the carbon world, but at no point does the Paris text mention the words fossil fuel, coal, oil…
THE MINISTER – The agreement sets a target, for the second half of the century, of neutrality regarding man-made emissions: it’s hugely ambitious. Bill Gates, who is both visionary and practically minded, thinks it achievable, provided that we encourage technological breakthroughs with new public and private investment: I share that view. This means a huge financial effort, which is getting under way. The comparative costs of the various forms of energy are going to change. We must use the current period of low oil prices to reduce or even abolish fossil-fuel subsidies, and some states have started doing this. Given all these changes, there is and will continue to be powerful resistance. But you’ll see that both climate threats and the essential counter-measures will materialize faster than people think today. It was in Paris that this positive sea change for mankind was globally recognized and translated into concrete action.