Ambition and compromise key to COP21 climate talks
Paris Climate Conference/11th part of the second negotiation session of the Working Group on the Durban Platform – Press conference given by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, President of the Paris Climate Conference¹
Bonn, 20 October 2015
THE MINISTER – Thanks to Christiana Figueres; I entirely share all the observations she’s just made.
I came to Bonn this afternoon because we must make progress in order to succeed in Paris. As you know, the text being negotiated here, in what’s called the ADP group – a text was drawn up on the initiative of the two co-chairs: a short, concise text that also differed from the previous text, which was more an aggregate of pre-existing elements – this text was sent to the different participants a few days ago, and yesterday there was a discussion within the ADP group. It was suggested, particularly by the so-called Group of 77, that a number of significant amendments should be made to the text, so it’s a new text that is now being negotiated.
It’s a new text insofar as, even though it retains the structure of the old text that was positive, it makes changes on the issue of differentiation, on the preamble, on the issue of finance and on the issue of review schedules, and other issues could be added.
It’s longer than the previous one for the moment, because there are 34 pages in total: 20 pages itself and then there are the decisions. The text is going to be discussed throughout this week in the working groups decided on by the ADP participants. Our wish, my wish to prepare for Paris properly is for us to have a text at the end of this week that retains the structure of the previous one but whose content will necessarily be different and where a number of options have been removed and choices have been made.
I had the opportunity to talk for an hour to all the ADP delegates. The Group of 77, which was due to have a meeting at that time, very decently agreed, and even proposed, to postpone its meeting so that we could all discuss it together. There were a lot of issues, a lot of discussions – when I say “we”, I mean both my Peruvian colleague and myself. I then spoke to Christiana Figueres, our Executive Secretary, the two co-chairs, the American President and the Algerian President to see how they saw the weekend. And then there’s the period between the end of this week and the Paris meeting.
So this week is important. There have been significant changes to the text, coming above all – let’s be frank – from developing countries, particularly the Group of 77, which means the text now being presented is really owned by all the ADP group members. So I’d like the text to have been examined closely by the end of the week and a number of elements removed and, on the basis of this week, I’d like us to be given a text at the beginning of the Paris meeting – because that’s the procedure – which enables the final arguments to be completed.
In the meantime, there will have been a series of meetings. In the text’s mechanism itself, I’ll be convening what’s called, in a familiar phrase, a pre-COP meeting in Paris between 8 and 10 November, with nearly 100 ministers – but open to all those who wish it –, where we’ll re-examine a number of complex issues which, of course, call for very detailed analysis. There will also be a whole series of important international meetings: the G20 meeting, which will be held in Antalya in Turkey in mid-November; a whole series of meetings in South America; and at the end of November, the Commonwealth countries’ meeting in Malta, where the French President has been invited to discuss the COP. There will be still more meetings, because as COP21 approaches, obviously the number of meetings increases.
Just like Christiana Figueres, I’ve got a positive feeling about the general environment of the COP. Of course, a lot remains to be done, but when you look at the number and scale of the national contributions – the INDCs –, when you also look at the growing involvement of cities, regions, businesses and civil society in preparations for the COP – particularly inclusion on the NAZCA site, which is recording commitments and a whole series of initiatives –, when you look at the positions taken by everyone, I think the climate, if you’ll excuse the bad pun, is positive in the run-up to this COP. Clearly a lot of work remains to be done, particularly the work that must be done here, based on deepening the text. That’s how things are as far as the French presidency is concerned.
We’re going to continue our attitude of listening, ambition for the COP and compromise. As you know, at the end of the Paris conference the decisions taken must be accepted by everyone. So our role, my role is to facilitate this compromise while keeping the level of ambition high.
Q. – Republicans in Congress in the US have been fighting climate regulations at home. Most presidential candidates have said that they would roll back climate regulations. There are efforts for Senate resolutions that could hurt US action in Paris and our Senate majority leader said that leaders should be worried about getting into an agreement with the United States, and so my question, sir, is: are you worried about getting into an agreement with the US? Do you think that the US will remain a partner in a climate deal in Paris?
THE MINISTER – An agreement without the US would not make much sense. Why? First because the US is among the two main emitters around the world and second because of the role that the US is playing. And therefore the will of everybody throughout the world who wants an agreement is for this agreement to include the US. Obviously the political situation has to be taken into consideration, but I have no doubt about the will of President Obama and up to now he has been able to take a series of decisions which are going in the right direction. I have no doubt that it will be possible to move forward on the same line. Now, obviously we have to find the proper way from a purely legal viewpoint in order to make it possible, but I am pretty confident that the sense of responsibility will prevail.
Upward revision of commitments
Q. – To get back on track to the two degrees goal, how do you see the wording in the agreement on a mechanism to review a ratcheted-up ambition? How regularly it should be done? How it should be done?
THE MINISTER – It is a point which is dealt with in the different contributions and amendments. We will see what the decisions will be. Obviously it is a very important point. Why? Because without anticipating the official report – which will be given by Christiana Figueres – about the calculation of INDCs, it is very likely that, fortunately, we shall be far away from 4/5/6ºC, which were being suggested by the IPCC. And at the same time, some elements which have been given to us – but once more, Christiana Figueres will provide the official answer and calculation. Many answers say right now, stemming from the INDC, that it will be difficult to reach 2ºC. Therefore, if you are fortunately not in the 4/5/6ºC area, but at the same time not yet at 2ºC, the conclusion is rather easy to determine: we have to coin a system, a mechanism in Paris, included hopefully in the agreement, which will describe how we can move from 3ºC, if it is 3ºC, to 2ºC or even to 1.5ºC; there is a growing consensus for an every-five-years system, but it has not yet been decided. I imagine that it will be a point which will be discussed. There are other elements of discussion but this question is obviously one of the main questions which must be dealt with.
Q. – A question on climate finance if I may: You have mentioned the OECD report. I was wondering if you can tell us what signal Paris needs to give, to provide, not just about the $100 billion in 2020 but what will happen to climate finance after that, because I think that is a key concern of developing countries.
THE MINISTER – There are two points: 2020 before 2020, and 2020 after 2020.
About before 2020 and 2020: first I must emphasize the importance of the OECD report because it’s the first time that there has been an evaluation of where we are – not today, because the date is, as you know, 2014. But before that, there were discussions with figures which had not been documented. Therefore, this time there are figures on a very serious basis: $62 billion in 2014 divided into bilateral, multilateral, public and private. It will help us describe the path towards 2020 and the $100 billion. There can be discussions about methodology and they are welcome, but all in all the ministers of finance and the heads of multilateral institutions, who were in Lima, welcomed the fact that it was a very serious study. I think that it will be useful that before the opening of the Paris conference there could be a sort of new assessment of where we are. On these figures there are some critics; I remember in particular that the head of the African Development Bank said: “be careful, the figures, OK, they are there, but they show that in particular the adaptation element for poor countries is very small”, and therefore it indicates that we have to make new efforts, and among these efforts I have been struck by the fact that in Lima some countries – not as many as we may wish but some countries – have delivered new commitments, as well as many multilateral institutions. It is already much more than $62 billion because of these new elements.
Now about the post-2020: I have seen that in the amendments that have been brought to the text, there are different elements which have been written about this. I don’t know what will be the final outcome, because it is one point which must be discussed here. Some countries are saying, “well, we have to be more precise”, some countries are saying the figures must be improved upon. Afterwards, it will be a matter for discussion, but I cannot tell you exactly what will be the final outcome, but obviously it will be a very important element, and when I say that, I am not only speaking about finance, I am also speaking about technology. These are the two points which will help to achieve success in Paris.
Paris is not only a matter of having commitments about the 2ºC or the 1.5ºC: it is very important that we also agree on how countries – and especially developing countries – can get there. The question of technology and finance comes in here: between today and the COP21, there will be new elements – for instance, the famous Green Climate Fund will take its first decisions. This will show on a concrete basis that it is not a trivial discussion, these are practical decisions and from what I know, the board of the Green Climate Fund will take decisions within a couple of weeks on some countries, some projects which will be financed.
Q. – I wanted to ask you a question about the UK in relation to the INDCs that you have spoken of repeatedly. Of course a lot of them include quite dramatic shifts in renewable energy investment and reduction in fossil fuel subsidies. The UK this week has been criticized by a senior UN environment scientist, Professor Jaqueline McGlade, for doing the opposite, for cutting back quite dramatically on renewable energies subsidies while maintaining fossil fuel subsidies. It is obviously a very important member of the EU and I wonder if you think that it poses any sort of problem for the message the EU is trying to champion here in these climate talks that lead up to Paris.
THE MINISTER – Well, I am not here to “name and shame”, but as far as I know, the proposals and commitments which have been taken by the EU are among the most ambitious. Obviously one could always expect a better figure, and we can discuss what is exactly in the figures, but it could apply to any country. But I think that it is widely acknowledged that the EU is among the bodies/organizations/continents which have made special efforts. It does not mean that it is enough, because it is never enough. But I think that quite a great effort has been made by the EU, and as far as I remember in the wording of the EU there are the words: “at least 40%”, which mean that under certain circumstances and certain decisions it can be better than that.
Q. – M. Fabius, you have invited world leaders to come to the summit for the opening. How many replies have you got? How many do you expect? Will we see the leaders of the United States, China, India, Russia on that Monday?
THE MINISTER – The French President and myself have invited the heads of state or the heads of government to the opening and I will not get into a detailed list, but our understanding is that a large number of leaders will attend.
Q. – I would like to talk about the role of developing countries. A lot of developing countries’ delegates have told me at the start here that they felt that the text was unbalanced, and there were all the additions that came in yesterday and the issue today about whether civil society is going to be allowed in some of these working groups. A lot of the developing countries’ work depends on the information of the civil society and so on. Are there going to be some special steps to make sure that developing countries feel or are more included or that their priorities are paid more attention to? Or do you think that the process will take care of itself in that regard, that they will speak up and that they can fend for themselves?
THE MINISTER – As far as I understand your question, they were not satisfied with the text and they have proposed changes. Now, it is a new text and everybody will discuss it. In particular the representative from South Africa said: “OK, now there is a new basis for negotiation”. One of the points that the co-chairs said to us, was that they have the feeling that this is now the text of the ADP, whereas before some people were saying: “well, it’s the text coming from the co-chairs”. But remember, it was a very difficult exercise because you go from 83 pages to 20 pages and therefore there has been a reaction, but to a certain extent it is a positive one, because now we have a text with different options and there are working groups and they will say: “OK, we have come this far” regarding, for instance, loss and damage issues; that is our view and obviously it is an absolute necessity if we want to come to an agreement in Paris.
Q. – What about the civil society observers?
THE MINISTER – I was not there, but I understand that it has been said that it was an international negotiation. It has been said that so far this part of the discussion will be submitted to the agreement of the different countries and I think the Japanese delegate was interviewed from what I have been told, it was decided at that stage to be only the parties. Now, I don’t know exactly how it will develop, but it is what has been said to me. So, you know, it is second hand.
Q. – Could I go back to the question of the ratcheting mechanism and whether you think it is going to be enough if we are going to get to the 2ºC goal eventually, to have this stock taken with an aggregated review of the INDC? If there needs to be some sort of mechanism in the text to look at INDCs in a more individual way and on what individual countries have proposed?
THE MINISTER – There are a lot of questions and the working group will examine that. You can say: what is a periodicity? You can say: does it need to be always new backslidings? Does it apply to everybody or only to Northern countries? When? To what extent? Well, you can imagine a lot of questions, and I am fully confident that the working group will make a proposal.
Q. – Mr Fabius, you said that you hope some issues would be resolved here in Bonn and there will be key political questions left for Paris. Could you elaborate a little bit on which issues you think could be resolved here before Paris and also what length of text are you expecting to come out of Bonn? Somewhere between 20 and 40 pages or less than 34 pages? Just as an indication…
THE MINISTER – My answer will be simple: never have an issue, solve the largest. The text? The shortest possible./.
¹M. Fabius spoke in French and English.