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Paris Climate Conference

Published on November 9, 2015
Speech by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, President of the Paris Climate Conference, at the opening of the pre-COP meeting (excerpts)

Paris, November 8, 2015


We’re meeting for three days with an extremely clear goal: to make progress towards the ambitious compromise in Paris. I say ambitious because limiting the warming of our planet to 2ºC or even 1.5ºC by 2100 is both essential and very difficult, because so far we haven’t achieved it. Compromise because the situations, the positions of the different parties aren’t the same, and despite everything we must reach an agreement at the end of COP21 that unites us all.

Our meeting is the start of the final straight in a diplomatic marathon which began in 2011 at COP17 in Durban and is due to be completed on 11 December at the end of COP21. A lot of work has been done, a long road has been travelled, but as in any long-distance race the final kilometres are often the most difficult. So we must continue our active efforts and even step them up. As I was saying a moment ago, we must do everything to ensure Paris is a success.

I’m going to say a few words, Manuel [Pulgar-Vidal] will speak and then we’ll talk to each other according to a method I’ll suggest to you. This pre-COP meeting comes a few weeks after the Bonn session – and I pay tribute to the co-chairs, Ahmed [Djoghlaf] and Daniel [Reifsnyder], who are here –, during which, as you know, the negotiators from the ADP Group [Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action] discussed the draft agreement. After a difficult start, the negotiators managed to agree on a text. Many people would have liked that text to be shorter, with fewer options, but the text has the merit of being structured, balanced and equipped with ambitious options. Above all, it’s accepted by all the parties as the basis for the final negotiation in Paris, which wasn’t always the case at the previous COPs.

I’ll add – as I did at the two previous informal ministerial meetings – that the goal of our meeting isn’t to renegotiate the text that emerged from the Bonn session. It’s this text which will be on the negotiating table at the beginning of the Paris conference, when the ADP Group negotiators will resume their work at the opening, and during the first week, of the COP.

But for all that, it’s our responsibility as ministers and heads of delegation to provide political impetus and facilitate what will be the final agreement. This work has already shown itself to be effective over recent months. In the previous two informal ministerial meetings, our discussions enabled progress.

The goal of these three days of informal negotiations is to find the route to compromise on as many subjects as possible. There are various options our technical negotiators are still deadlocked on, and in particular major political issues.
So at the level of ministers and heads of delegation we must decide between the major options available. On the basis of this essential work on our part, let’s hope the negotiators can make swift progress from the beginning of the conference, after receiving the political impetus from the heads of state and government, who will speak on 30 November – to date, nearly 110 have confirmed their presence. If this pre-COP meeting enables us, on a sufficient number of subjects, to give the negotiators a clear, ambitious mandate open to compromise, then it will have fulfilled its role.

Additionally, this pre-COP meeting must also prepare us, collectively, to take control of the negotiation. As you know, in the structure that is planned, at the end of the first week of the COP – at midday on the Saturday, to be precise – the co-chairs of the ADP Group will have handed me the draft agreement that emerges from the work of the negotiators, and it will then be up to the ministers and heads of delegation to complete the negotiation during the second week, and I’ll be responsible, as President, for encouraging convergence between all countries. In this regard, our meeting is a sort of dress rehearsal, which may be useful, for the Paris conference.
What subjects will we be tackling over these three days? We’re proposing to you that we concentrate on four main themes: ambition, fairness, the concrete action to implement by 2020, and post-2020 financing.

We defined these themes on the basis of the results of the Bonn session. The overall structure of the draft agreement has now been settled. It comprises a preamble and 26 articles each relating to a specific theme: adaptation, mitigation, transparency, capacity-building, loss and damage, technologies etc. In each of the articles, the same types of more cross-cutting issues are raised. By working from today on those cross-cutting issues, we’ll be able to make progress as soon as the Paris conference begins on the whole draft agreement. A few words on each of these four themes.

1/ Firstly, ambition. If we manage, over these three days, to agree on a clear, operational long-term target, we will have taken a major step. If we also manage to agree on the principle and regularity of a clause for the upward revision of national commitments which enables us gradually to get onto the 2ºC trajectory, another major step will have been taken. And many elements of my conversations with the various parties point in that direction. Let me add that the theme of ambition isn’t limited to reducing emissions: adaptation also plays a central role in it, as do the financial and technological resources that will enable the ambition to be realized in practical terms – in this regard, I welcome the decision of the Green Climate Fund, announced the day before yesterday, to finance eight initial projects worth nearly $170 million, with a strong emphasis on adaptation for vulnerable countries.

2/ Fairness. The developing countries would understandably like each country’s past responsibilities and present capacities to go on being taken into account when their commitments on emissions mitigation and adaptation are drawn up. As for the developed countries, they are pressing the case for better account to be taken of national circumstances, going beyond membership of country categories. This is the question – which you all know well – of differentiation, which cuts across all the issues. I think the principle of a fair sharing of everyone’s efforts is agreed, but discussions remain on the practicalities of implementing them. If we make headway on this, the negotiators will pragmatically settle at the beginning of the COP a series of options which still haven’t been decided in the articles on mitigation, financing, transparency etc. This will allow us to adopt the final agreement.

3/ Third theme: the concrete action we can and must implement now – i.e. without waiting until 2020, when the Paris agreement comes into force, but this is five years’ away, which is a long way off. Our goal is to recognize that action taken before 2020 is essential and that the commitments made must be honoured, especially the promise of $100 billion yearly. We’ll also discuss the Agenda for Action and the way in which the Paris agreement could take into account commitments by non-state actors with a view to future COPs.

4/ Fourth theme: post-2020 financing. Our informal discussions in September on the issue of finance focused mainly on the commitment of $100 billion by 2020. On this point, the OECD report delivered in Lima didn’t close the debate, but allowed headway to be made on it. Paradoxically, our progress up to 2020 hasn’t been bad, but positions after 2020 are still barely defined.

So one of the vital objectives of this pre-COP will be to make progress on several points: the issue of stepping up climate financing beyond 2020, encouraging those emerging countries which can and want to do so to contribute to this effort as well, the principle of boosting the share devoted to adaptation, which many are calling for, and the transparency and predictability of funds.

Ambition, fairness, action between now and 2020, finance post-2020: these are the four main themes, and there are others. Everything is linked, and I’m thinking, for example, of loss and damage and what’s called the response issue. All this will be adopted either in these four groups or at this afternoon’s plenary session. To ensure the necessary transparency, the conclusions of our discussions will be made available to all parties, including those who aren’t present over the course of these three days.

Dear friends,

Everything must be done to make the Paris conference a success. This pre-COP meeting is a milestone ahead of 30 November, the date the conference opens. This morning we met civil society groups, and at some point in our meeting we’ll let you know their main demands. It was extremely interesting.

The issues we’ll be debating over these three days are, admittedly, complex and sensitive, because they affect each country’s development model for decades. But I’m convinced that you all share this point of view: the urgency and seriousness of the threat are such that the international community can no longer resign itself to remaining a sort of powerless power. You may have seen a number of posters displayed at the entrance to this building, which are part of a publicity campaign starting on Monday 9 November and putting across this message.

If we don’t reach an agreement in December, the global public, who are looking to us, wouldn’t understand. Our fellow citizens know that later will be too late.

So we, ministers and negotiators, must show ourselves equal to the challenges and to our responsibilities. Collectively, we must find the path to an ambitious compromise. Together, we can build hope.

It will be my role to get across this message to you today, with my friend Manuel, and I’ll go on promoting it in the coming weeks, with a single aim: to achieve in Paris on 11 December the success the whole planet is expecting. Thank you./.

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