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Panel discussion on climate change

Panel discussion on climate change

Published on June 6, 2015
Opening remarks by Ségolène Royal, Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy - Embassy of France in Washington, D.C., June 6, 2015


Hello everyone,

I am delighted to be able participate with you today in these exchanges and debates on climate change; I would like to thank the Embassy of France for organizing this event.

Luc Jacquet’s beautiful film, which we will discuss in a few moments, highlights a very important phenomenon: the accelerated melting of the icecaps. It helps us understand that climate change and its consequences are not a distant possibility but something that is happening now and that we must stop right now.

Today is June 6 and an important world first is taking place: a global participatory debate that will give the citizens of the world, in all their diversity, a voice. Because protecting the climate - a global public good - isn’t just a matter for the specialists (even though we really need scientists to provide us with guidance); it isn’t just the responsibility of government officials (even though we badly need governments to make commitments) but should concern everyone who shares this planet.

Today, on June 6, for 24 hours, according to the different time zones, 104 participatory debates bringing together a total of 10,400 citizens will have taken place in Asia, Europe, Africa and America.

The very first debate took place in Fiji. Fifteen other islands, which are directly threatened by rising water levels and the increase in the number of extreme weather events, have also hosted identical debates throughout the day.

Four debates are taking place in the United States (in St. Paul, Minnesota, in Fort Collins, Colorado, in Boston, Massachusetts, and in Phoenix, Arizona).

The results of all these debates will be shared across the globe. They will reflect the global environmental conscience and the importance of involving citizens in the decisions that affect them.

The topics debated throughout the day are complex but the demanding and innovative approach used in these debates by specially trained moderators allows everyone to familiarize themselves with the issues, to take ownership of the challenges, to discuss them with the other participants, and, at the end of the day, to express informed opinions that have been jointly developed.

I would like to add (and I have personally made sure of this) that the carbon footprint for this comprehensive consultation process has been kept to an absolute minimum; all stages of the preparatory work were carried out in a paperless manner as far as possible.

I have long been a strong supporter of participatory democracy which enriches the development of public policies. I put this into practice myself in my country and in the region that I presided over for 10 years.

France, which holds the presidency of COP21, is lending its full financial and logistical support to the organization of these debates, as reflected by the involvement of our embassies all over the world, and of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Ecology. The independence of this process, which will help develop a more participatory global democracy, will be strictly observed.

So yes, this June 6th is a great day of democratic mobilization on behalf of the climate. It is not a one-off, but a beginning. A summary of these 100-plus simultaneous discussions will be available to all on the Internet, and fully transparent. Their recommendations will be presented on June 10 in Bonn to all negotiators involved in the Paris climate summit. This major public consultation process therefore represents a direct contribution to the efforts that must lead us, at year’s end, to take decisions that are on a par with the urgency of the climate situation. But they must also be commensurate with the fantastic opportunities offered by reducing the carbon intensity of our economies and societies, the rise of renewable energies, and what, more generally, I call the opportunities of green growth.

Dear Luc Jacquet, you always say that what’s at stake, in the fight against climate change, isn’t the protection of nature but that of human life on earth. That’s very true.
But you also say: let’s not indulge in catastrophic tales that demoralize people instead of inspiring them to act; because a clear-minded fight to protect our climate must be based on hope, must be a fascinating adventure.

I completely share this point of view, and I am curious to know what all of you here today think. How do you see and experience these climatic shifts that have very concrete consequences for the United States, from the Arctic, where the pack ice is retreating, to California, which is facing a drought? How should we act here and now, from the local to the global level?

I am convinced that we are seeing the dawn of a new model of economic, social and environmental development that is in fact a new model of civilization based on a new harmony in our relationship with nature.

Of course the old world is resisting, and powerful interests are trying to block the necessary changes. But, having attended the 1992 Earth Summit as Minister for the Environment then, I am struck by how much more awareness exists today among private individuals and corporations, in large cities and rural communities. The balance of power is shifting between those who support a laissez-faire approach to the climate and those with a growing will to act.

Every human being has two homelands: his or her own country and Planet Earth. If all the world’s citizens put their minds to it, if we appeal to them seriously with respect for their collective intelligence, we will not only succeed in concluding a good international agreement, we will not only live better now, but we will open the way to a new future for all those who share the planet.

It’s not an easy job, but it’s an inspiring one.

I would like to end with this quote from the American philosopher George Santayana: “The Difficult is that which can be done immediately; the Impossible that which takes a little longer.”

Thank you.

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