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Success of the COP 21 Conference on Climate Change

Success of the COP 21 Conference on Climate Change

Published on December 14, 2015
Closing speeches by Mr. François Hollande, President of the Republic and Mr. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, President of the COP21
Le Bourget - December 12, 2015

Closing speech by Mr. François Hollande, President of the Republic

Mr. UN Secretary-General, dear Ban Ki-Moon,


So you did it! You have succeeded where we failed six years ago. You have succeeded while the level of skepticism has remained high over the last few months. You did it and you did it in Paris. You were able to overcome your legitimate interests in order to reach an agreement and not just any agreement, an ambitious agreement, a universal agreement, a binding agreement. I would like to thank you for having lived up to the responsibility conferred upon you, for having responded to the appeal made by the heads of state and government.

It will never be possible to express so much gratitude to a conference and you will remember for a long time that it took place in Paris, on December 12, 2015. And later, when you’re asked, when we’re asked about what our lives mean, about what we’ve accomplished, we will be able to cite many facts, we will be able to tell many stories, but one will stand out, you will be able to say that "on December 12, 2015, we were in Paris for the climate agreement" and you will be able to express your pride to your children and grandchildren.

I would like to thank Laurent Fabius for the work he has been carrying out for months. As you know, he is the French government’s minister of foreign affairs and I asked my colleagues "but where is Laurent Fabius?" and they replied "but he’s on a plane because he’s visiting every country in the world in order to seek a climate agreement" and for the last 13 days, throughout all of these hours, he has been drafting this agreement with you, he has been seeking compromises, and at the same time he did not at any time give up on the agreement that was destined to be ours.

In addition to him, I would like to thank, like all of you—with words that went straight to the hearts of those concerned—the entire team, the entire team of the UN Secretariat, the entire team working with Christiana Figueres, the entire team that made it possible to achieve the results that we see.

We’ve been waiting for this agreement for a long time. For more than 40 years, awareness had been growing, scientists had become increasingly certain about their work, the number of statements issued by heads of state and government had been increasing, women and men on the forefront, trailblazers like Al Gore, who is here today, had been issuing warnings, had been telling us that it was time to take action! But decisive commitments were still lacking.

An then there was the failure in Copenhagen which, if I may say so, disheartened the best minds, perhaps even discouraged some of the most committed heads of state and government. So much so that three years ago, I proposed that France should host the Paris Climate Conference. I was warned, I was told "can we be certain that an agreement will be reached?" but how can you know before you’ve made any effort to reach one? I was aware that it was a huge responsibility; I knew that failure was a possibility but at the same time, drawing on lessons from history, I knew that there can be no progress without courage, no progress without risks, no success without hardship. Ladies and gentlemen, history is made by those who are truly committed, not by those who are merely calculating! And now you are truly committed and you weren’t merely calculating.

I was confident because an issue had never brought so many heads of state and government together before. There had never been so many national contributions, these much talked about INDCs, put together by governments to indicate the contributions of each state. There had never been so many texts with these commitments. But thanks to the agreement, we are now in a position to be able to limit increases in temperature to less than 2 degrees, and even to 1.5 degrees by the end of the century. Because a clause was included to review these commitments; because financing—100 billion—was committed to help economies adapt, particularly in developing countries; because you introduced mechanisms to ensure solidarity, particularly with respect to the most vulnerable countries, and to allow them to be compensated for losses and damage. So yes—with you, the world has written a new page in its history!

We are entering the low-carbon era. It is a powerful, irreversible movement, and it goes far beyond States and Governments. Thousands of regions, provinces, cities have pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050; businesses and the financial sector have decided to redirect their investments to low-carbon sectors. And here in Paris we have launched numerous initiatives, African initiatives, to provide electricity to all. An alliance was created to develop solar energy, innovations, technology-sharing.

During this conference, initiatives were presented that will revolutionize the world and allow it to make its transition. But this agreement, your agreement, is not an end; it’s a beginning, and France will do everything it can not only to enforce the agreement—that is our responsibility—but to accelerate the movement.

I pledge on behalf of France to review no later than 2020 our commitments to reduce greenhouse gases.

I pledge to review the financial contribution to adaptation, particularly for the most vulnerable countries. I am making this commitment with other countries, if they want to join us to form a coalition to determine a carbon price and thereby redirect investments.

Tomorrow I will propose that countries that want to move faster can update their commitments before 2020.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the fight for the climate is part of a fight for human dignity, a fight for equality, a fight for fundamental rights—a fight that has been under way for decades, for centuries. You know that it was in Paris where the Rights of Man and of the Citizen were proclaimed. Well, thanks to you today, we have just proclaimed the Rights of Humanity. I want to underscore the magnitude of the Paris Agreement in relation to this act, this revolution.

I am proud, proud that France hosted this conference; proud that the United Nations was capable of acting as an international community to shoulder this responsibility; proud that the ideas of justice were able to prevail; proud of my generation, of your generation, which was capable of deciding to take action for a world that we will not see.

Yes, December 12, 2015, will remain a great date for the planet. Over the centuries, Paris has seen many revolutions, but today brought the most beautiful, most peaceful of these revolutions: the climate change revolution.

Thank you.

Vive les Nations Unis,
Vive la planète,
Et vive la France!

Speech by Mr. François Hollande, President of the Republic

Secretary-General of the United Nations, dear Ban Ki-moon,

I know how tirelessly you have worked these past few months to enable us to meet here, in Paris, with the possibility of reaching an agreement.

President of the Conference, dear Laurent Fabius,

Throughout the last few months—and even more so in the last few days—you have played a key role in bringing viewpoints together and reconciling what sometimes seemed irreconcilable. But that is the very meaning of a universal agreement.

Executive Secretary,

I know that you have also made sure that the delegates could fully play their part, because you are so committed to the wonderful idea that the international community can take action.


You have worked extremely hard and I want to thank you on behalf of France for the discussions you have held here in Paris, day and night, and sometimes more night than day, to seek the agreement that had not yet been reached.

All these efforts must reach their conclusion, for what was the point of this shared time, these many initiatives, this global determination, and this work, if not to reach a universal, binding, differentiated agreement?

We are now at a critical moment, facing the only real question, which only you can answer. Do we want an agreement? This agreement which could not be reached in Copenhagen; this deadlock which, for years, was a huge disappointment for all those who wanted a future for our planet; this deadlock which called into question the ability of the international community to take action. Well, thanks to the progress that you have managed to accomplish in the last few months and especially the last few days, you and you alone have the answer!

We need to take the final step, the decisive step that will allow us to reach our goal. The text that has been prepared and submitted to you is both ambitious and realistic.
It reconciles responsibility, especially that of the richest countries, with differentiation. It grants the most vulnerable and developing countries the means that have been promised. It establishes review mechanisms that are essential for the credibility of the agreement. This text will be, with your approval, the first universal agreement in the history of climate negotiations.

You are going to make a choice, a choice for your country, for your continent, but also for the world. It will be a major step for humanity. That is why, at this stage of the negotiations, at this final stage of the conference, I wanted to be here with you. For I am responsible—like you—for the mandate that was given by the 150 heads of state and government who came to the start of the conference to show their commitment to reaching an agreement in Paris. But also for the aim of keeping to the 2°C target and even striving for 1.5°C, because it is our responsibility, because it is the decisive issue, because global warming above that level could seriously affect the balance of our planet.

To achieve this, we have scheduled further meetings to review national contributions and financial commitments. As the President of COP21 said, no one will be satisfied with the agreement if everyone reads it in the light of their interests alone. But it will be a success for all, because what unites us is the planet itself.

In the face of climate change, our fates are intertwined. Each party has its constraints, as I am aware. But all that counts now is that we do the right thing together. Not all demands have been satisfied, not all claims have been met, but we will not be judged on phrases but on the text as a whole, we will not be judged on a word but on an action, not on a day but on a century. So our collective credibility and that of the international community is at stake.

Ladies and gentlemen, the presence here today of 196 delegations—representing the whole world—after so many months of work is unprecedented in the history of climate negotiations. Hopes have been raised high. The world has begun to take action, not only in this room but far beyond. Local governments, citizens, researchers and businesses have started to take immediate action. Coalitions have been formed and initiatives have been taken throughout the world; I am thinking in particular of the renewable energy initiative for Africa, led by India. I also know how much mobilization there has been with regard to carbon pricing. We are, therefore, capable of combating global warming and promoting development.

So, history is on its way, history is here, the time is right, but it will not be for much longer. We, you, are on the final rung and need to climb a little further to meet this challenge. This cannot be postponed or deferred; the time for a decisive agreement for the planet is now. It is up to you and you alone, on behalf of what you represent, all nations of the world, to make this decision.

12 December 2015 can be not only a historic day but a great day for humanity. 12 December 2015 can be a message of life and I would personally be happy, almost relieved, even proud, if this message were to come from Paris, because Paris suffered greatly just one month ago, to the day.

So, ladies and gentlemen, France asks you, France begs you to adopt the first universal climate agreement in our history.

It is rare, in life, to have the opportunity to change the world; you have that opportunity to change the world. Seize it, for the survival of our planet, mankind, and life itself.

Speech by Mr. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, President of the Paris Climate Conference

We are almost at the end of the road, and no doubt at the start of another.

Firstly, I would like to thank all of you for your work, not only over the past few days—and nights—but over all these months, and for many of you, all these years. The final draft agreement which is being presented to you this morning, and which will be handed out to you at the end of this session, naturally owes a great deal to the progress made here in Paris, but none of us can forget the earlier progress made, since Durban in particular.

I would particularly like to thank the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the President of the French Republic, who honour us here with their presence and who have both put great personal determination into ensuring the success of COP21.

Over the past four years, the ADP has worked extremely hard, and I would like to commend the successive co-chairs, the facilitators and all the negotiators. I would also like to express my heartfelt thanks to the Peruvian Presidency of COP20, especially Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, who generated the necessary momentum, before our Moroccan friends take over next year. Lastly, I would like to spare a thought for all those ministers, negotiators and activists who would have liked to be here in these circumstances, which will probably make history, but who took action and fought without being able to see this day.

* * *

Throughout this Paris Conference, we wanted to ensure that you were hosted and could work on preparing the agreement in the best possible conditions. I had announced a method based on listening, transparency, ambition and compromise. A COP where all parties would feel that they had been heard and understood. I hope that collectively we managed to achieve this.

Dear friends,

After the exceptional political momentum generated by the 150 heads of state and government who gathered at the start of the conference, the ADP continued its work throughout the first week. Last Saturday—which already seems so long ago!—after the ADP text was submitted by the co-chairs, we set up an informal consultation body open to all, this Paris Committee; we all worked a huge amount and slept relatively little, while several facilitator ministers helped us to reach compromises. I would like to thank them very warmly. Several meetings in Indaba format were held to resolve sticking points. This week, I submitted to you no fewer than two successive intermediate versions, based on the work of the parties, before presenting the final text to you today. At each stage, the aim was to move closer, together, to the agreement desired by all. Each time, the parties were consulted on the best method to enable progress, as well as on the content. All of this took place in a constructive atmosphere, which I would particularly like to highlight, and today we are close to the end of the process.

* * *

For I firmly believe that we have reached an ambitious and balanced draft agreement which reflects the positions of the parties. It will be distributed to you in a few minutes. I do not want to enter into all the details here, but I would nevertheless like to highlight a few points. This text, which is necessarily a balanced text, contains the main steps forward which many of us thought it would be impossible to achieve. The proposed draft agreement is differentiated, fair, sustainable, dynamic, balanced and legally binding. It is faithful to the Durban mandate. It acknowledges the notion of "climate justice" and takes into account, for each issue, the countries’ differentiated responsibilities and their respective capabilities in the light of different national circumstances. It confirms our central, even vital objective of holding the increase in average temperature to well below 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit this increase to 1.5°C, which would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change. It sets an ambitious but necessary long-term target. It makes reducing greenhouse gas emissions everyone’s responsibility, through the submission or updating, every five years, of national contributions, which in this case can only become more ambitious. It focuses heavily on adaptation to the effects of climate disruption. It recognizes the permanent, pre-eminent need for cooperation on loss and damage. It provides for the resources needed to enable universal access to sustainable development, by mobilizing appropriate means of implementation; in addition, the draft decision of our conference stipulates that the $100 billion per year planned for 2020 will need to be a floor for post-2020 and that a new quantified target will need to be set by 2025 at the latest. This text should strengthen mutual confidence between the parties, thanks to a stronger transparency framework, which takes into account the capabilities of each party and is based on the existing systems. It provides for a global stocktake of our progress every five years, which will enable to us to take collective action if our efforts fall short of the targets set. If it is adopted, this text will therefore mark a historic turning point. And more generally, this COP21 is a real turning point, both in terms of non-governmental action—that of local governments, businesses and many organizations—and in terms of the establishment of a universal legal agreement.

Throughout our many discussions, each party expressed its proposals and, understandably, its red lines, which we respected. Of course, it is probable that no country will see all of its wishes fulfilled. But it should be recognized that with 196 parties, we knew from the start that if everyone had required all their demands to be satisfied, as a group we would have been entirely dissatisfied. As one of you so rightly pointed out during our work, we need to show the world that our collective efforts are worth more than the sum of our individual actions.

All of us here believe that the time has come to focus not on red lines but on the green lines of a universal compromise. The question that we should all be asking is therefore no longer simply: "how can I ensure that my position prevails?", but rather: "can I hope for more than the overall balance that is being offered to me?" And the answer, as I firmly believe and I hope you do too, is clearly that this text, which we have built together, our text, is the best balance possible, a balance which is both powerful and fragile, which will enable each delegation, each group of countries, to return home with their heads held high, having gained a lot.

And I would like to add that, as President of COP21, I am committed to taking into account any difficulties that some of you might have once our agreement has been adopted and to organizing, if necessary, during my Presidency, consultations that will enable us to resolve them rapidly.

* * *

Dear colleagues and friends,

Today is therefore the moment of truth for all of us. Before you examine the text and we are able, I hope, to approve it a little later in the day, I would like to end by saying this.

This agreement is necessary both for the world as a whole and for each of our countries.

It will help island states, for example in the Pacific and the Caribbean, to protect themselves from the rising sea levels which are beginning to submerge their coasts. It will speed up the process of giving Africa access to the financial and technological means that are indispensable for the continent’s sustainable development. It will support Latin American countries, in particular to preserve their forests. It will support the countries that produce fossil fuels in their efforts towards technological and economic diversification. It will help us all to make the transition to resilient, low-carbon development based on sustainable ways of life. For above and beyond the climate issues per se, this agreement will support major causes such as food production and security, public health, poverty reduction, essential rights and, lastly, peace.

Another powerful reason to approve the agreement is linked to its context. Now, in December 2015, we can all feel that there is a particular "momentum" here in Paris, especially as regards the mobilization of civil society. You have all repeated this during these two weeks of work: never before has there been such a positive context, and such an alignment of stars, to borrow an expression our friend Ban Ki-moon likes to use. We therefore have a great responsibility to history, a responsibility that means we must not let the unique opportunity that is within our grasp slip through our fingers.

Nobody here wants to see a repeat of Copenhagen, a Copenhagen that would no doubt be more polished, but which would ultimately be much more destructive. For at the time—many of you will remember that conference—there were failings and mistakes, and the stars were not aligned; today, they are. At the time, some still hoped that the failure of the moment would be overcome. But if, today, we were so misfortunate as to fail, how could we rebuild hope? Confidence in the very ability of the concert of nations to make progress on climate issues would be forever shaken. Beyond that, it is the credibility of multilateralism and the international community as an entity capable of addressing universal challenges that is at stake. None of us can or will neglect that aspect. The citizens of the world—our own citizens—and our children would not understand it. Nor, I believe, would they forgive us.

I therefore call upon everyone to bear in mind what our heads of state and government said loudly and clearly during the opening of this conference. What did they say? What mandate did they give us? "Conclude this universal climate agreement." At this moment, as we hold the fate of the agreement in our hands, we cannot allow any doubt about the sincerity of the commitments of those very senior leaders, or our own ability to honour the commitments they made.

* * *

Let me conclude. One of you mentioned the other day a famous quote by Nelson Mandela, most suited to the occasion. "It always seems impossible until it’s done." I would like to add a few more words, by the same hero. "None of us acting alone can achieve success." Success is within reach of all our hands working together.

Together, in this room, you are going to decide on a historic agreement. The world is waiting with bated breath and is counting on us all.

Thank you.

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Adoption of the Paris Agreement

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