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Paris Climate Conference/Paris Agreement

Published on December 14, 2015
Speech by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, President of the Paris Climate Conference

Le Bourget, December 12, 2015

We are almost at the end of the road, and no doubt at the start of another.

Firstly, I would like to thank all of you for your work, not only over the past few days – and nights – but over all these months, and for many of you, all these years. The final draft agreement which is being presented to you this morning, and which will be handed out to you at the end of this session, naturally owes a great deal to the progress made here in Paris, but none of us can forget the earlier progress made, since Durban in particular.

I would particularly like to thank the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the President of the French Republic, who honour us here with their presence and who have both put great personal determination into ensuring the success of COP21.

Over the past four years, the ADP has worked extremely hard, and I would like to commend the successive co-chairs, the facilitators and all the negotiators. I would also like to express my heartfelt thanks to the Peruvian Presidency of COP20, especially Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, who generated the necessary momentum, before our Moroccan friends take over next year. Lastly, I would like to spare a thought for all those ministers, negotiators and activists who would have liked to be here in these circumstances, which will probably make history, but who took action and fought without being able to see this day.

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Throughout this Paris Conference, we wanted to ensure that you were hosted and could work on preparing the agreement in the best possible conditions. I had announced a method based on listening, transparency, ambition and compromise. A COP where all parties would feel that they had been heard and understood. I hope that collectively we managed to achieve this.

Dear friends,

After the exceptional political momentum generated by the 150 heads of state and government who gathered at the start of the conference, the ADP continued its work throughout the first week. Last Saturday – which already seems so long ago! – after the ADP text was submitted by the co-chairs, we set up an informal consultation body open to all, this Paris Committee; we all worked a huge amount and slept relatively little, while several facilitator ministers helped us to reach compromises. I would like to thank them very warmly. Several meetings in Indaba format were held to resolve sticking points. This week, I submitted to you no fewer than two successive intermediate versions, based on the work of the parties, before presenting the final text to you today. At each stage, the aim was to move closer, together, to the agreement desired by all. Each time, the parties were consulted on the best method to enable progress, as well as on the content. All of this took place in a constructive atmosphere, which I would particularly like to highlight, and today we are close to the end of the process.

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For I firmly believe that we have reached an ambitious and balanced draft agreement which reflects the positions of the parties. It will be distributed to you in a few minutes. I do not want to enter into all the details here, but I would nevertheless like to highlight a few points. This text, which is necessarily a balanced text, contains the main steps forward which many of us thought it would be impossible to achieve. The proposed draft agreement is differentiated, fair, sustainable, dynamic, balanced and legally binding. It is faithful to the Durban mandate. It acknowledges the notion of “climate justice” and takes into account, for each issue, the countries’ differentiated responsibilities and their respective capabilities in the light of different national circumstances. It confirms our central, even vital objective of holding the increase in average temperature to well below 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit this increase to 1.5°C, which would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change. It sets an ambitious but necessary long-term target. It makes reducing greenhouse gas emissions everyone’s responsibility, through the submission or updating, every five years, of national contributions, which in this case can only become more ambitious. It focuses heavily on adaptation to the effects of climate disruption. It recognizes the permanent, pre-eminent need for cooperation on loss and damage. It provides for the resources needed to enable universal access to sustainable development, by mobilizing appropriate means of implementation; in addition, the draft decision of our conference stipulates that the $100 billion per year planned for 2020 will need to be a floor for post-2020 and that a new quantified target will need to be set by 2025 at the latest. This text should strengthen mutual confidence between the parties, thanks to a stronger transparency framework, which takes into account the capabilities of each party and is based on the existing systems. It provides for a global stocktake of our progress every five years, which will enable to us to take collective action if our efforts fall short of the targets set. If it is adopted, this text will therefore mark a historic turning point. And more generally, this COP21 is a real turning point, both in terms of non-governmental action – that of local governments, businesses and many organizations – and in terms of the establishment of a universal legal agreement.

Throughout our many discussions, each party expressed its proposals and, understandably, its red lines, which we respected. Of course, it is probable that no country will see all of its wishes fulfilled. But it should be recognized that with 196 parties, we knew from the start that if everyone had required all their demands to be satisfied, as a group we would have been entirely dissatisfied. As one of you so rightly pointed out during our work, we need to show the world that our collective efforts are worth more than the sum of our individual actions.

All of us here believe that the time has come to focus not on red lines but on the green lines of a universal compromise. The question that we should all be asking is therefore no longer simply: “how can I ensure that my position prevails?”, but rather: “can I hope for more than the overall balance that is being offered to me?” And the answer, as I firmly believe and I hope you do too, is clearly that this text, which we have built together, our text, is the best balance possible, a balance which is both powerful and fragile, which will enable each delegation, each group of countries, to return home with their heads held high, having gained a lot.

And I would like to add that, as President of COP21, I am committed to taking into account any difficulties that some of you might have once our agreement has been adopted and to organizing, if necessary, during my Presidency, consultations that will enable us to resolve them rapidly.

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Dear colleagues and friends,

Today is therefore the moment of truth for all of us. Before you examine the text and we are able, I hope, to approve it a little later in the day, I would like to end by saying this.

This agreement is necessary both for the world as a whole and for each of our countries.

It will help island states, for example in the Pacific and the Caribbean, to protect themselves from the rising sea levels which are beginning to submerge their coasts. It will speed up the process of giving Africa access to the financial and technological means that are indispensable for the continent’s sustainable development. It will support Latin American countries, in particular to preserve their forests. It will support the countries that produce fossil fuels in their efforts towards technological and economic diversification. It will help us all to make the transition to resilient, low-carbon development based on sustainable ways of life. For above and beyond the climate issues per se, this agreement will support major causes such as food production and security, public health, poverty reduction, essential rights and, lastly, peace.

Another powerful reason to approve the agreement is linked to its context. Now, in December 2015, we can all feel that there is a particular “momentum” here in Paris, especially as regards the mobilization of civil society. You have all repeated this during these two weeks of work: never before has there been such a positive context, and such an alignment of stars, to borrow an expression our friend Ban Ki-moon likes to use. We therefore have a great responsibility to history, a responsibility that means we must not let the unique opportunity that is within our grasp slip through our fingers.

Nobody here wants to see a repeat of Copenhagen, a Copenhagen that would no doubt be more polished, but which would ultimately be much more destructive. For at the time – many of you will remember that conference – there were failings and mistakes, and the stars were not aligned; today, they are. At the time, some still hoped that the failure of the moment would be overcome. But if, today, we were so misfortunate as to fail, how could we rebuild hope? Confidence in the very ability of the concert of nations to make progress on climate issues would be forever shaken. Beyond that, it is the credibility of multilateralism and the international community as an entity capable of addressing universal challenges that is at stake. None of us can or will neglect that aspect. The citizens of the world – our own citizens – and our children would not understand it. Nor, I believe, would they forgive us.

I therefore call upon everyone to bear in mind what our heads of state and government said loudly and clearly during the opening of this conference. What did they say? What mandate did they give us? “Conclude this universal climate agreement.” At this moment, as we hold the fate of the agreement in our hands, we cannot allow any doubt about the sincerity of the commitments of those very senior leaders, or our own ability to honour the commitments they made.

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Let me conclude. One of you mentioned the other day a famous quote by Nelson Mandela, most suited to the occasion. “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” I would like to add a few more words, by the same hero. “None of us acting alone can achieve success.” Success is within reach of all our hands working together.

Together, in this room, you are going to decide on a historic agreement. The world is waiting with bated breath and is counting on us all.

Thank you./.