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International conference on major forest areas

Published on March 15, 2010
Speech by Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the Republic (excerpts)

Paris, March 11, 2010

(…) I came back from Copenhagen more determined than ever to press forward with the battle against climate change. The Copenhagen summit was frustrating, it was difficult and yet it signalled an essential turning point if we carry out the “after sales service”.

The unprecedented mobilization which brought 130 Heads of State to Copenhagen, thanks to the IPCC and public recognition of what is at stake: quite simply the survival of mankind and the planet is riding on this. And we aren’t going to give up this goal because Copenhagen was an example of poor organization. I take responsibility for what I say: there must be no confusion between form and substance. (…)

100 countries have now officially endorsed the Copenhagen political agreement. For the first time, it sets a common level of ambition: to limit climate warming to 2ºC and halve global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The agreement organizes cooperation between our nations on the basis of 10 specific commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions and help the territories and populations most exposed to climate risk.

A lot remains to be done, but we absolutely have get the work going again after Copenhagen. The tragedy of Copenhagen, or rather of its poor organization, is that the work is grinding to a halt. We haven’t got the right to stop it.

Our meeting today is raising great hopes: it’s the first to discuss how to implement the Copenhagen agreement. (…)


France fought to get the protection of the forest to be a priority for the whole international community. (…)

In Copenhagen it was France who proposed that 20% of the $10 billion to be spent annually over the three years 2010, 2011 and 2012 under the fast start mechanism be allocated to the forest areas. I’m going to repeat my conviction that, on their own, the countries home to the major forest areas can’t maintain this common heritage of mankind.

Their sovereignty is of course total, but what I mean is that they haven’t got the financial resources to maintain it on their own, yet these forests serve the whole of mankind. Every country must contribute to the funding. Our aim is to reduce deforestation by 25% by 2015, by 50% by 2020 and, quite simply, end deforestation in 2030.

2009 marked significant progress on the REDD+ agenda, which is the very purpose of our conference. In this respect, I’d like to pay tribute to the substantial effort decided on by Brazil and thank the Brazilian minister, Mr Minc who is here with us. We’re also pinning all our hopes on the measures announced by Indonesia, represented here by the Minister, Mr Hasan and Mr Witoelar, Executive Chair [of the Indonesian National Council on Climate Change]. And of course, the efforts of the Congo Basin countries are crucial in order to achieve our global objective.

In Copenhagen, six countries, including France and Norway, announced a commitment of $3.5 billion over three years for the REDD+ programmes in the developing countries. I’d like our meeting to confirm and broaden this commitment, organize effective coordination of this assistance on the ground and also get the private sector to play its full part in the cooperation we decide on. The public sector can’t do it on its own; the private sector must be here too.

Your discussions must enable us to build, in a climate of trust, the mechanism we need to protect the forests and secure the employment of the people living in them, a mechanism prioritizing transparency and results, so that the funding rewards the efforts undertaken. France has just offered the central African countries access to SPOT satellite images for five years and, if you’d like us to, we’re obviously ready to continue after that, so you will yourselves be able to keep a watchful eye over the developments in the forest cover. France is at the disposal of the other countries home to large forest areas to help them build their national or regional capabilities.

Of course the fight against deforestation, to promote the protection of the forest and combat global warming must not make us neglect the battle for development. You can’t do one without the other. Protecting the forests means that cultivatable land can’t be extended at their expense. So we must establish programmes to improve agricultural productivity to address the food needs of the rapidly growing populations. (…)


A final word on the forests. 2010 is biodiversity year. The forest areas are an essential reservoir of biodiversity, so they must be subject to appropriate measures. France is asking for the creation of an intergovernmental platform on biodiversity, a sort of biodiversity IPCC. Let’s decide to create it at October’s United Nations conference in Nagoya!


Ladies and gentlemen,

Your discussions are going to show that the mobilization against climate change isn’t flagging. By concretely implementing a major point of the Copenhagen Agreement, you are going to restore public confidence around the world. And, starting from this first success, the whole negotiation is going to get going again. (…)

2010 has to be the year of decisive progress in two directions:

Let’s first agree on the concrete progress achievable this year on each of the Copenhagen commitments. I’m thinking, of course, about the funding of the measures in the developing countries. We have to establish a genuine investment plan for the $30 billion over three years, prioritizing rapid impact measures. (…)

Secondly, beyond 2012, we have scheduled $100 billion a year until 2020, with 20% of this for the forest countries. Only with innovative financing will be able to meet this challenge. France, through Bernard Kouchner, has supported this idea from the start. If there’s no innovative funding, there’s no money. (…) In Copenhagen we agreed on the principle of innovative financing and on the budget: $100 in 2020.

So France will support the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Melès Denawai, in the mission the United Nations Secretary-General entrusted to him, alongside Gordon Brown. (…)


I ask the countries of Latin America, Africa and Asia to understand that there’s no ideological divide between North and South, but only between the countries which want to act and get results and those which want to wait and let the storm go by. I tell my African friends: we have to get away from the usual way of organizing things, with the poor on one side and the rich on the other, no! That’s a losing strategy. (…)

In 2030, the world is at a crucial moment: we move or we don’t move? France wants to move and you, particularly Africans, and you forest countries will be the first to benefit from this. Be even a bit more exigent and ask those “declaring their love” for you what they are ready to do. (…)


(…) I’m going to say a word about the UN, because we can’t go on any longer shrugging off the problems and real issues, it’s no longer possible. The UN is absolutely essential and at the same time it isn’t working. (…)

Of course the United Nations operates on the unanimity principle: the General Assembly. I’m not disputing this. But we have to differentiate between the time when we vote on a prepared text and the one when it’s being drawn up. We can’t continue the fiction that 192 countries and their representatives can negotiate a text. It’s mad, we’ll never succeed. If we try, every time, we’re going to find ourselves back where we found ourselves in Copenhagen with a text which resembled Voläpuk, which wasn’t a text, but only a parenthesis. Apart from the thanks at the beginning and the tributes at the end, nothing had been agreed.

There had been a year’s work to negotiate a text which didn’t exist and between an official dinner and a short night we were supposed to turn what we had into a genuine treaty or the beginnings of a treaty. (…) So we demanded a night meeting. And I take responsibility for the meeting, I said we have to have an operational group of heads of State and government. And, pragmatically, we created a group of 28 heads of State and government who, in 24 hours, negotiated a political agreement which couldn’t have been that bad since, the following day, it was ratified by virtually all the others.

Now I say that on Copenhagen, this group, this principle must be pursued. (…) So right now we need to establish this smaller group – I’m not saying there have to be 28 countries – and increase the number of this group’s meetings to prepare a text which we will put on the table in Bonn, as a milestone, and adopt in Cancan. (….)

For the rest – and I’ll end here – I’m certain that we have to reform the United Nations, that Copenhagen, global warming and the IPPC compel us to carry out the United Nations reform; otherwise the United Nations will be deadlocked The Security Council must be enlarged. That’s blatantly obvious. Just think about it: the Security Council’s Permanent Members don’t include a single African or Latin American country or India! It’s insane. Let’s give each world region a quota of permanent member seats and let them each appoint them in their own way. (…) Next year, as president of the G20 and G8, France will take initiatives on this subject and on others.


Basically – and I’m concluding with this – 2010 can be a fantastic year.

We’ve got Copenhagen to get back on the road. We have an international monetary system to reinvent. We have global governance to reform. We have the whole issue of development to rethink, absolutely, completely, on the basis of Copenhagen. It’s enthralling.

What are we waiting for? (…)

Have a good meeting. Thank you everyone./.

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