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Published on March 28, 2013
Excerpts from the replies by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs, to students of Leiden University

The Hague, March 21, 2013


Q. – Do you think climate change and the growing scarcity of natural resources are the main causes of conflict in the world today?

THE MINISTER – I don’t know if they’re the main ones, but they’re certainly one of the major sources of today’s and tomorrow’s conflicts. When you look at the problem of water, when you look at the map of migration often linked to climate, clearly if nothing is done to resolve all this it will be an absolutely tragic source of conflict. That’s why we must be galvanized on these climate decisions.

France is going to play her role because, as you may know, each year there’s a so-called COP, which is a conference dealing with climate issues. The last was held in Qatar, in Doha, and didn’t bring very great results. There’s going to be one in 2013 and another in 2014, and it’s the 2015 conference, known as COP 21, which will have to decide. It so happens that France is bidding to host the conference, and insofar as it’s due to return to a European country, I think it will be France.

That will be difficult, because – you’ve been following the Kyoto work – we’re in a paradoxical situation. The risks and even certainties regarding the rise in temperature are stronger than before, and at the same time countries in general aren’t ready to accept the idea of a single legal standard valid for all the countries. It’s work that must be resolved through consensus.

That will require a very large amount of work, and yet there are a few pieces of good news that give us hope. First of all, President Obama, in his campaign, said that it was one of the main themes for him and that he wanted a result on the issue to be a high point of his second term. And I had the opportunity to discuss this with John Kerry, who is an expert on these issues, who took part in the conference and who confirmed to me that of course, while respecting their own interests – each country defends its interests – the Americans wanted there to be results. Clearly it’s much easier with the help of the Americans than if they’re against us.

The Chinese are also taking the climate issue seriously into consideration, because they realize that what’s happening in China is important for the whole world. A number of disasters that have occurred in China have had social consequences, and there are extremely fierce revolts over a number of abuses. The new Prime Minister, whom I saw some time ago, confirmed to me that the social consequences of Chinese policy would be a disaster in terms of development. At industrial level, they’re behind, but by making a technological leap they can be ahead, which could be the case with electric car batteries; you’ll soon be seeing what arrives from China.

So we have some fine hopes, but also difficulties that confirm that it’s a really major challenge. (…)./.

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