COP21: Towards a Global and Dynamic Agreement on Climate Change

Speech by H.E. Mr François Richier, Ambassador of France to India at TERI University.

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TERI University’s opening session of winter school of sustainability

New Delhi, 2 November 2015

- France will host a global conference on climate change from November 30th, with the aim of achieving an agreement to maintain the elevation of temperature below 2°C by 2100. This is the target set by the scientific community within the framework of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).

- The debate with climate skeptics is now over. The majority adheres to the fact that there is climate change. And that this is the consequence of human activities. And it will have consequences on our lives. The poorest, the worst it will be because it is always easier for the rich to adapt. Adaptation has always been a natural endeavour for the humanity; mitigating a problem such as climate change is less natural. COP21 aims at building a regime to foster collective action on these two issues.

1) COP21 aims at starting a dynamic and to reach the 2°C target.

- France will chair Paris Climate Change Conference, COP21. As chair of Conference, we have a specific status. We do not act as France; we act as the chair. We are impartial, opened to everyone’s views. We act with transparency. We try to find the good solutions and examples, everywhere there are. We stimulate the debate.

- One year back, there was no other candidates to host COP21. It was deemed to be a failure by a majority of diplomats. France has decided to take the challenge and we put a lot of energy into it. This is French spirit: we often take a desperate cause and sometime we win. We know that we can count on the cooperation of the Indian government in this respect.

- What would be the shape of the agreement we aim at reaching at the end of the year, without prejudice of the undergoing negotiation?

  1. A universal and differentiated agreement. It cannot be a “one size fits all” agreement. We should aim at capping the temperature raise to below 2°C. The agreement must be balanced, and effectively address both mitigation and adaptation. The agreement must also be a dynamic one: which means that Paris will not be the end of the story. The agreement will provide the conditions under which the parties, under the United Nations Convention on Climate change, will address this issue in the long run.
  2. National contributions: all countries have to provide state how they intend to limit carbon emissions and to adapt to climate change and requirements in technologies and finance. More than 150 countries have submitted their contributions (almost 90% of global emissions). This shows that there is a global movement. India is part of it. Only a few have stayed apart, like Pakistan.
  3. Financial package: Green Climate Fund has been established. There is more than 10 billion dollars in the fund. France has committed one billion dollars, which has already been disbursed to the fund so it can start its operations as soon as possible. Developed countries must fulfill their commitments of providing 100 billions dollars per year for climate action from 2020. A recent OECD report showed that we are on track. This report is far from perfect but provides a first basis for discussion on this essential issue. We also have to leverage private finance.
  4. Contributions from other stakeholders: scientists, subnational entities, NGOs, civil society; and of course, decisively, the corporate sector, which could contribute to produce solutions and put new ideas – if possible out of the box ideas – on the table. TERI has done a tremendous work on climate change and sustainable development. I encourage TERI to showcase its initiatives at COP21. We have set up a digital platform so that all stakeholders may share their experiences and initiatives (NAZCA – Non State Actor Zone for Climate Action). COP21 will gather more than 40 000 people.

- On all these aspects, negotiations are ongoing. As chair, we have a principle: impartiality. We also have a method. We hold regular high level informal consultations on specific issues, where leaders at the ministerial level can address these issues. The next one will happen in Paris mid-November. This aims at building a consensus well ahead of COP21.

2) Tackling climate change is compatible with economic development. They go hand-in-hand.

- It is not about pro-development and pro-environment fighting against each other. Coping with climate change will be an engine for growth. There is an opportunity for economic growth. If we want to address the issue of poverty, we need to take into account the issue of climate change. The poor will be the most affected.

- As Prime Minister Modi said, coping with climate change necessitates a change in the daily habits of people, especially in the West. We need self-limitation in terms of consumption (cf. energy efficiency). We need sustainable consumption and more sustainable lifestyles In France, we decided to ban plastic bag completely by 2016. Waste management is key to tackling climate change.

- 2 examples on the link between coping with climate change and ensuring economic development:

  1. PM Modi wants to develop ‘Make in India’ with, in his own words “zero defect, zero effect”. This is very important: it is a completely different view on economic growth. It is about a different path of growth compared to what has been done in developed countries since the industrial revolution or in China for that matter.
  2. ‘Make in India’ implies that one should produce nearby customers. If you produce goods far away, and transportation creates an additional burden on climate change.

- Energy is key. India has set itself ambitious targets in terms of renewable energy (100 GW solar by 2022 + 40% non fossil fuels by 2030). France as well is currently undertaking an “Energy Transition”.

- Nuclear energy technologies are part of the solutions. Nuclear energy cannot be ruled out for an industrial country. Germany has decided to phase out nuclear energy; France has decided to continue (75% nuclear in our electricity production). The French approach is to mix nuclear energy with renewables.

- In India, coal will remain an important part of the energy mix. There are risks associated with this, but we can find solution to address these risks. If coal based power plants are to be built in India – and this is the case and will remain the case for a long time, at least technology should provide solutions to address and reduce these risks (clean coal tech).

- In France as well, energy is an important aspect of tackling climate change. France is the country that has the lowest level of per capita carbon emissions amongst western developed countries, and the cheapest electricity in Europe, and probably beyond, thanks to nuclear energy. We are undertaking an energy transition.

3) We have a dialogue with India on climate change. India has shown its leadership on climate change.

- Our dialogue with India on climate change is constant, at the highest level. Prime Minister Modi went to Paris in April. Prime Minister Modi and President Hollande met in September in New York and discussed the issue of climate change and how to reach a successful outcome in Paris at the end of the year.

- In India, we reach out to all stakeholders: think tanks, NGOs, private businesses, academics, scientists… We have a monthly conference series at the Embassy to foster debates and discussions. My goal is to better understand India’s challenges when facing climate change and to gather its ideas and initiatives. India, with its tremendous dynamism and creativity, is definitely a key actor in this respect. India has indeed, in the last one and a half year, shown leadership on this issue.

- India’s states also play a key role. Wherever I go, I look into the specific climate related challenges of the state. Himachal Pradesh and the Himalaya: some glaciers are melting. West Bengal: rise of the sea levels and the associated problems with salt water penetrating the soils and threatening biodiversity. In Gujarat: strong impetus given by the former CM to address the issue of climate change while ensuring economic growth and energy access. Uttard Pradesh recently: impact on agriculture and water.

- At the international level India has taken a number of key initiatives. 2 examples:

  1. India’s INDC is an important step for a successful agreement in Paris at the end of the year. Its content is ambitious, notably the 40% target for non fossil fuel energy by 2030 (which includes nuclear – same as French approach of the issue).
  2. The initiative proposed by PM Modi to create a “Solar Alliance” between solar rich countries is a promising project. It will help streamlining national policies to send a signal to the private sector and will foster technology dissemination and innovation for solar energy.

- We also need to work closely on technologies. India again has shown the way in this respect. LED bulbs example: LED bulbs were very expensive; the India government decided to buy LED bulbs in large number to lower the price and disseminate this key technology for energy efficiency.

On a bilateral level, we work closely with India on nuclear energy, solar energies (French companies: 10% by 2022), energy efficiency, and energy storage.

- Urban development. Smart cities. During Prime minister Modi’s visit to France, we have decided to commit 2 billion euros for financing sustainable urban development projects.

- Space: the Indo-French satellites launched in 2011 and 2013 are helping us gain a better understanding of climate change and its consequences on ocean, coastal areas and monsoons. We will soon launch a third satellite dedicated to climate change observation.

The Paris Climate Change conference is not an end in itself. It involves a new phase of economic development which is more sober in terms of carbon emissions, and with more sustainable lifestyles. It is therefore much more than a diplomatic endeavour; it’s a human endeavour. To succeed, we need the contribution of all.

Last modified on 02/11/2015

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