France calls for universal climate agreement in Paris

Seventieth United Nations General Assembly/Paris Climate Conference – Speech by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, to the United Nations General Assembly

New York, 28 September 2015


Our organization, the UN, is celebrating its 70th anniversary. Immense progress has been made since it was founded as an institution charged with keeping the peace. It has succeeded in doing so on numerous occasions. And yet, 70 years on, we still have dramatic situations, tragedy, conflict and war. And the world is obliged once again to face up to great challenges. What are those challenges today? Hundreds of thousands – millions even – of refugees in the Middle East, in Africa, in the hope of obtaining protection or quite simply of saving their lives. Terrorism is hitting civilian populations and no country is spared by this scourge.

And then there are conflicts that have gone unresolved for years and years despite the fact that we know they could degenerate at any time – I have the Middle East in mind here. And then at the same time there are disasters, tsunamis, earthquakes, islands soon to vanish, coastlines submerged and glaciers melting: climate disruption.

Faced with these challenges, we must all shoulder our responsibilities at our own levels. France, in many domains, never refuses to participate. But France wished to host the Climate Conference, no doubt because it was aware that a terrible failure occurred in Copenhagen and that it was necessary to take the right decision this time, a decision that can only be taken by the international community as a whole.

So in Paris we will need to ask ourselves just one question: is mankind – are we – capable of taking the decision to preserve life on the planet? Yes, that question alone places us in a position we could never have imagined for our generation. You may say “but we can do it later, perhaps at another conference! ” I can assure you of one thing, and I will be blunt: if it is not done in Paris, it will be too late for the world.

For several months, things have been making good progress and very strong statements have been forthcoming precisely from the countries most responsible for global warming – I am thinking notably here of the two major emitters, the United States and China, which have made commitments that help change the state of play. There have also been many calls from all continents stressing the gravity and urgency, with detailed testimony on what global warming is already, now, today.

There are also countries which have hitherto been reluctant – here I have the developing world in mind – and which have been asking themselves whether it is in fact useful to impose constraints upon themselves when the most developed countries have themselves refused to be bound by such rules and obligations. Today, if you ask me for my own prediction – and I am often asked – I will say that an agreement in Paris is far from certain but that everything is still possible.

I see three conditions to be met for us to be able to say that the Paris Conference has been a genuine success, worthy of us, worthy of the task you have entrusted to us in asking us to host it. The first is to be able to conclude a universal, overall agreement for the world, an agreement that is binding and differentiated in order to ensure that all contribute their fair share and no more. To date, 90 states – half therefore of those that sit at the United Nations – have submitted their national contributions, and this represents – the figure is already substantial – 80% of all greenhouse gas emissions. That means that half the world has not yet responded and I invite you therefore to do so and to do so rapidly to ensure that we can assess as of now what, given the contributions from all states, we can assure the world will be the limit on global warming.

The second condition that will determine our success or failure is that we must be able to ensure that our resolution, our action is long-lasting. The Paris agreement must not be a destination, a conclusion, but rather a starting point, the beginning of a process. We shall be able to be assured of that with a review mechanism to be included in the agreement that will make it possible to evaluate regularly, measure periodically and even revise every five years our national contributions. This is what will allow us to be sure that at the end of the century, that is to say well beyond our own lives, the planet will not have warmed by more than 2ºC.

The third condition that will signify failure or success is that the developed countries will need to make financial commitments. I am well aware that the figure was announced already in Copenhagen: $100 billion to finance the energy transition, adaptation and technology transfer. We need to raise $100 billion by 2020, but it must be said now to ensure that the emerging countries, the developing countries can be sure they will be helped, supported, assisted, and that this leap forward, this sharing of technology, will actually come about.

One hundred billion. The OECD now has the task of providing an initial estimate. This will be presented at the Lima meeting – and I thank the President of Peru for taking forward the programme he began at COP20. Yes, the OECD will make an initial estimate – we are not yet at $100 billion. So it will be necessary between now and Paris, in two months, to continue to mobilize the World Bank, the major development banks, the financial institutions, states and private actors if we are to arrive at $100 billion. Everybody must set an example and France is no exception to the rule that when you are the host country you must do better than, or at least as well as, your guests. I can announce here that our annual funding, France’s annual funding for the climate, which stands today at €3 billion, will exceed €5 billion by 2020. And the increase in aid will not simply involve loans, but also grants because it is with grants – that is to say funds transferred directly and not repaid – that we will be able to provide powerful aid to developing countries to adapt to the effects of climate change.

If we are in a position to meet these three requirements: a universal agreement which can and will be revised every five years, with funding that can be at the level of all we need to cover in terms of new needs and to commit in terms of future technology, then yes, we will be able to say in Paris, in two months, that we stepped up to the mark. Not simply up to the mark in terms of history but in terms of the future too.

It is a good thing that the international community is able to look to the future and say what kind of world it desires – we did so with the Sustainable Development Goals – and we must do so for the climate. But what is expected from the United Nations is not only – and it is already a great deal – to ensure that the world is fit to live in at the end of the century, it is also that it should be bearable today at a time when conflicts and wars confront us with tragedies which, in 1945 when the United Nations Organization was founded, nobody imagined we would ever see again. (…)./.

Last modified on 14/10/2015

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