"Today, we have seen the most beautiful & most peaceful of revolutions"
“I hear no objection in the room, I declare the Paris climate agreement adopted.” It was with these words, on Saturday, 12 December, that Laurent Fabius closed the fierce negotiations that had been underway for two weeks in Le Bourget. A long standing ovation and shouts of joy followed in the room where the 195 countries had gathered to adopt the Paris agreement, a historic agreement to combat climate change.
Why is this agreement historic and why will 12 December 2015 be remembered as a great day for the planet?
It has been widely recognised, with unanimous agreement from scientists, that the earth’s atmosphere is growing warmer due to greenhouse gas emissions generated by human activity. The aim of the Paris Conference that was held from 30 November to 12 December at the Le Bourget exhibition centre was to come up with a response to this problem, which is threatening to wipe out the human presence in certain parts of the world.
Keeping the rise in temperature below 2°C
This agreement marks a change in direction, towards a new world. It confirms the target of keeping the rise in temperature below 2°C. Scientists believe that a greater increase in temperature would be very dangerous. The agreement even establishes, for the first time, that we should be aiming for 1.5°C, to protect island states, which are the most threatened by the rise in sea levels.
How can we manage to avoid global warming?
By 12 December 2015, 186 countries had published their action plan; each of these plans sets out the way in which they intend to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The UN body that deals with climate change (the UNFCCC*) published an evaluation of these contributions on 1 November 2015. This study showed that despite the unprecedented mobilization shown by States, at this rate global warming would still be between 2.7°C and 3°C, i.e. above the threshold set by scientists.
The Paris agreement therefore asks all countries to review these contributions every five years from 2020; they will not be able to lower their targets and are encouraged, on the contrary, to raise them.
In addition, emissions should peak as soon as possible and the countries will aim to achieve carbon neutrality in the second half of the century. This is a real turning point. We are going to gradually stop using the most polluting fossil fuels in order to reach this goal.
How else can States limit the rise in temperature?
The agreement acknowledges that $100 billion (in loans and donations) will need to be raised each year from 2020 to finance projects that enable countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change (rise in sea level, droughts, etc.) or reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The agreement specifies that this amount should increase. Some developing countries will also be able to become donors, on a voluntary basis, to help the poorest countries. This is a first. The agreement schedules an initial meeting in 2025, where further quantified commitments will be made regarding assistance to the poorest countries.
Are all countries equally responsible for global warming?
One of the main principles of climate negotiations is that countries have common but differentiated responsibilities when it comes to climate change, depending on their wealth in particular. The agreement establishes an obligation for industrialized countries to fund climate finance for poor countries, while developing countries are invited to contribute on a voluntary basis. As regards transparency, a stronger system for tracking commitments, which allows developing countries a certain amount of flexibility, has also been set up in order to keep track of everyone’s efforts.
And it is not only States that can protect the climate…
Le Bourget hosted the first “Action Week” (LPAA*), which was an opportunity for local governments, businesses and banks to take action to combat global warming. This is one of the major global shifts that are underway. The Paris agreement proposes continuing the Lima-Paris Action Agenda to ensure that these actors remain mobilized. Two “champions” will be selected from among these actors by the two successive presidencies of the COP (France and Morocco) to encourage them to keep taking action.
When does this agreement enter into force?
The agreement will be open for signing by the countries on 22 April in New York. The agreement can only enter into force once it has been ratified by 55 countries, representing at least 55% of emissions.
Paris Climate Conference - Paris Agreement - Closing speech by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic (Le Bourget, 12/12/2015)
Secretary-General of the United Nations, cher Ban Ki-moon,
I know how tirelessly you have worked these past few months to enable us to meet here, in Paris, with the possibility of reaching an agreement.
President of the Conference, cher Laurent Fabius,
Throughout the last few months - and even more so in the last few days - you have played a key role in bringing viewpoints together and reconciling what sometimes seemed irreconcilable. But that is the very meaning of a universal agreement.
I know that you have also made sure that the delegates could fully play their part, because you are so committed to the wonderful idea that the international community can take action.
You have worked extremely hard and I want to thank you on behalf of France for the discussions you have held here in Paris, day and night, and sometimes more night than day, to seek the agreement that had not yet been reached.
All these efforts must reach their conclusion, for what was the point of this shared time, these many initiatives, this global determination, and this work, if not to reach a universal, binding, differentiated agreement?
We are now at a critical moment, facing the only real question, which only you can answer. Do we want an agreement? This agreement which could not be reached in Copenhagen; this deadlock which, for years, was a huge disappointment for all those who wanted a future for our planet; this deadlock which called into question the ability of the international community to take action. Well, thanks to the progress that you have managed to accomplish in the last few months and especially the last few days, you and you alone have the answer!
We need to take the final step, the decisive step that will allow us to reach our goal. The text that has been prepared and submitted to you is both ambitious and realistic. It reconciles responsibility, especially that of the richest countries, with differentiation. It grants the most vulnerable and developing countries the means that have been promised. It establishes review mechanisms that are essential for the credibility of the agreement. This text will be, with your approval, the first universal agreement in the history of climate negotiations.
You are going to make a choice, a choice for your country, for your continent, but also for the world. It will be a major step for humanity. That is why, at this stage of the negotiations, at this final stage of the conference, I wanted to be here with you. For I am responsible - like you - for the mandate that was given by the 150 heads of state and government who came to the start of the conference to show their commitment to reaching an agreement in Paris. But also for the aim of keeping to the 2°C target and even striving for 1.5°C, because it is our responsibility, because it is the decisive issue, because global warming above that level could seriously affect the balance of our planet.
To achieve this, we have scheduled further meetings to review national contributions and financial commitments. As the President of COP21 said, no one will be satisfied with the agreement if everyone reads it in the light of their interests alone. But it will be a success for all, because what unites us is the planet itself.
In the face of climate change, our fates are intertwined. Each party has its constraints, as I am aware. But all that counts now is that we do the right thing together. Not all demands have been satisfied, not all claims have been met, but we will not be judged on phrases but on the text as a whole, we will not be judged on a word but on an action, not on a day but on a century. So our collective credibility and that of the international community is at stake.
Ladies and gentlemen, the presence here today of 196 delegations - representing the whole world - after so many months of work is unprecedented in the history of climate negotiations. Hopes have been raised high. The world has begun to take action, not only in this room but far beyond. Local governments, citizens, researchers and businesses have started to take immediate action. Coalitions have been formed and initiatives have been taken throughout the world; I am thinking in particular of the renewable energy initiative for Africa, led by India. I also know how much mobilization there has been with regard to carbon pricing. We are, therefore, capable of combating global warming and promoting development.
So, history is on its way, history is here, the time is right, but it will not be for much longer. We, you, are on the final rung and need to climb a little further to meet this challenge. This cannot be postponed or deferred; the time for a decisive agreement for the planet is now. It is up to you and you alone, on behalf of what you represent, all nations of the world, to make this decision.
12 December 2015 can be not only a historic day but a great day for humanity. 12 December 2015 can be a message of life and I would personally be happy, almost relieved, even proud, if this message were to come from Paris, because Paris suffered greatly just one month ago, to the day.
So, ladies and gentlemen, France asks you, France begs you to adopt the first universal climate agreement in our history.
It is rare, in life, to have the opportunity to change the world; you have that opportunity to change the world. Seize it, for the survival of our planet, mankind, and life itself./.