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Climate disruption/COP21/Summit of Conscience for the climate

Published on July 23, 2015
Speech by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, President of COP21 (excerpts)

Paris, July 21, 2015

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

I wanted to begin by asking you to excuse me for being unable to attend the whole of this tremendous day (…) but at the same time it so happens that I was chairing – because I’m going to be President of COP21 – a meeting of around 50 ministers and heads of delegation from all over the world to prepare for this COP21. (…)

And, without boring you, I’d like to tell you what point we’ve reached and why I’m hopeful. We worked very constructively over these two days. Our positions grew closer; we chose to address two crucial issues. Firstly, what is the ambition?
Mainly not to exceed 2ºC, or even 1.5ºC, and when you look further, other ambitions are necessary. Is this agreement going to apply only from 2020, or even 2030? Or are we going to find a mechanism to ensure that this target is continuously revised upwards and that we won’t have to start this task again every five or 10 years? And the answer was yes.

We also had to agree – and this is more difficult – on the necessary financial and technological resources. There are still areas for improvement here, and I’ve convened another meeting for early September so that we can discuss these very difficult issues.

We also talked about a slightly incorrect but absolutely essential word:
differentiation. States aren’t, admittedly, in the same situation when it comes to how responsible they’ve been in the past for the increase in temperatures and greenhouse gases, and they don’t have the same means to act. This notion of differentiation is found in a whole series of subjects: differentiation in the targets, compliance methods and sources of financing. And I noted too with great satisfaction that positions were growing closer on this. The conclusion I draw following these two working days with leading figures is that things are progressing.

I said that two meetings were going on at the same time. This one, and what I’d call the one for those in power. It would be a mistake to treat these two forums separately – which you haven’t done – when the solution lies in them drawing closer to each other, and, I’d say – to employ an expression that must have been used today – in them coming together as one. If there’s just awareness, be it voiced by major figures or simply sensed by each of us, it’s necessary, it’s the compost which allows everything to grow. But there aren’t any immediate results because, in our institutional system, it’s governments that will take the decisions when the time comes. On 11 December – I often think about this – I’ll have a text and I’ll have to ask the 196 parties kindly to raise their hand if they agree to adopt it, and there mustn’t be any hand raised against.

For this to happen, it is essential to have major voices like yours becoming aware along with hundreds of millions of individuals. But we must make these voices reach governments. If there are no voices, governments won’t have the necessary zeal or will. But if there are no governments, awareness will exist but won’t result in a concrete decision. It’s very important and significant that these two meetings were held simultaneously.

Now, before concluding these few remarks – and I acknowledge that Arnold is a much better Terminator than me –, I want to ponder with you why we’re in a much better position to respond to this existential climate issue than only a few years ago.
I think there are three or four very strong and very simple reasons for this.

The first reason is that, unfortunately, climate disruption has got worse. We learned that just last month, June, was shown by studies in the US to have been the hottest since 1880. We know that 2014 had the highest temperature and that unfortunately there’s still a chance that 2015 will break the record.

So there’s been a deterioration in what I prefer to call climate disruption rather than global warming, because in some areas it won’t get warmer but, rather, the opposite. But climate disruption will be everywhere, with consequences you’ve of course been spelling out all day long. And so this disruption is so great, it has got so much worse that obviously there is a much stronger awareness.

The second point is awareness among the population, among key figures and, more generally, a movement which means that, linked to scientific observation – Ségolène Royal made some very pertinent points –, no one can dispute things any more. (…)
Today, thanks to the remarkable work of scientists, except in a few countries still – I’m thinking of one big country in particular – for ideological reasons, apart from that big country, science has demonstrated this fact: it is indisputable.

So the pace of climate disruption has speeded up, there’s the scientific input, there’s a general awareness, there are major political voices which have made themselves heard: when China, the world’s leading greenhouse gas emitter, makes a resolute commitment – and I’ve seen this demonstrated again throughout these two working days – and says “we really must act”, when the President of the United States, when many others make a real commitment, it’s a massive change which means that, from now on, things are looking much more encouraging.

But this isn’t over, because it’s very complex, because there are many interests acting in opposition, because it’s one thing to agree and another to express your agreement above and beyond traditional ideological divides. So we have to be increasingly active in the work we do together between now and December.

I’m often asked the question: “well now, you’re going to be President of COP21; is it going to be a success?”. I often reply with something the great Léon Blum said, which I like: “I believe it because I hope for it.” But beyond that, if I think about it carefully, why have the ingredients for success come together? Because there’s science, conscience, steadfastness and circumstances. We’ve just talked about science; conscience means you, all of us; steadfastness is what’s going to have to be demonstrated by those in power, who mustn’t therefore be derided but encouraged; and then, circumstances – in only a few months’ time in Paris, there’s this major meeting which we have no right not to make a success of.

So as our friend Ban Ki-moon reportedly said, “the stars are aligned”. This is why I believe in success thanks to all of you, all of us. Thank you./.

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