Planet’s future is at stake, says France at climate summit

Paris Climate Conference – Opening speech by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic

Le Bourget, 30 November 2015

Secretary-General of the United Nations, cher Ban Ki-moon,

Heads of state and government,

Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC,

Ladies and gentlemen ministers,

Global warming/terrorism

Today is a historic day. France is hosting 150 heads of state and government, and thousands of delegates from every continent. Never before has a conference received so many authorities from so many countries. And never – truly never – have the stakes of an international meeting been so high. For the future of the planet, and the future of life, are at stake.

And yet, two weeks ago, here in Paris, a group of fanatics brought death to the streets. I would now like to express the gratitude of the French people for all the gestures of support, all the messages, and all the signs of friendship that we have received since 13 November.

These tragic events are terrible, but at the same time they bring us obligations. They mean we have to focus on what is essential. Your presence gives immense hope that we have no right to dash, for the eyes of peoples and billions of human beings are on us.

For me, there is no dichotomy between the fight against terrorism and the fight against global warming. They are two great global challenges that we need to address, because we must leave our children more than just a world freed from terror. We owe them a planet protected from disasters, a viable planet.

Climate justice/global stability

The year we have just experienced beat all records: record temperatures, record CO₂ concentrations, and record numbers of extreme climate events: droughts, floods, cyclones, melting ice, rising sea levels and ocean acidification. The victims of these phenomena are counted in millions and the material damage in billions. No country and no region is safe from the effects of climate disruption.

How could we accept that the poorest countries, those that emit the fewest greenhouse gases, those that are the most vulnerable, should once again be worst affected?

It is in the name of climate justice that I speak to you today. It is in the name of climate justice that we must take action. We need to take note of the seriousness of the threat to the world’s equilibrium. Global warming heralds conflicts just as clouds herald a storm. It causes migration which throws more refugees out onto the roads than warfare itself. Governments may no longer be able to satisfy the vital needs of their citizens with the risks of famine, rural exodus and conflicts to access a good that is increasingly scarce: water.

Achievements to date

Yes, what is at stake at this Climate Conference is peace. Yet hopes have been raised with the preparation of COP21. In September this year, the international community adopted a comprehensive agenda through the Sustainable Development Goals, which were endorsed during the United Nations General Assembly. I would like to congratulate Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on that.

A hundred and ninety states – almost all the world’s countries – have drawn up action plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate disruption. And all global society’s stakeholders – local government, businesses, investors and citizens of all the great world regions – have also committed to the climate.

This increased awareness and this mobilization are bolstered by the lightning progress made in clean and renewable energy sources, which open up the prospect of a carbon-free economy. So to ensure a successful conference, France has given its all, and mobilized its whole government – starting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, Laurent Fabius, who will preside over this conference.

Conditions for success at COP21

I have visited the regions most affected by climate change myself, and come back with the same conviction that we need to ensure sustainable, fair development without compromising our planet’s limited resources. That is the equation we need to solve together during this conference.

I wanted the heads of state and government of the whole world to be mobilized from the outset of our work, to give this conference momentum and ambition equal to what is at stake. For an agreement needs to be reached in Paris on 12 December. Under what conditions can we consider that it is a good agreement, that it is a great agreement, and that it is an agreement that genuinely corresponds to the expectations of the world’s peoples, and in the long term? There are three conditions for us to be able to say that the Paris Climate Conference is or is not a success.

Limiting global warming

The first is that we need to define and mark out a credible path that will enable us to contain global warming below 2°C or even 1.5°C, if possible. For us to be sure that we are on that path, we need to provide for a regular assessment of our progress with regard to the conclusions of scientists and, thus, establish a “ratcheting-up” mechanism equal to our commitments, with meetings every five years.


The second condition is that we bring a mutually-supportive response to the climate challenge. No government should be able to shirk its commitments, even if a differentiation mechanism may take into account national circumstances and levels of development. No territory should be left alone to face climate change, particularly the most vulnerable countries.

I have in mind those islands that could, in a short time, quite simply disappear. Here, I want to be their spokesperson, because the planet’s very biodiversity – and diversity – are at stake. We need to draw conclusions from this: the agreement must be universal, differentiated and binding. The developed countries need to shoulder their historic responsibility, as they are the ones that have emitted the most greenhouse gases over the years.

The emerging countries need to speed up their energy transition, and the developing countries need to be supported in their adaptation to climate impacts. This is why financing needs to be provided to facilitate technology transfers. In Copenhagen, we set the target of $100 billion. Today, it is not a target that we need to set, it is resources that we need to identify, with guarantees on their origin and their accessibility.

Mobilization of societies

Lastly, the third condition for an agreement in Paris is that all our societies, in their great plurality and diversity, need to be mobilized. All local leaders, investors, economic and social stakeholders, citizens and even great consciences and religions, all those who contribute to shaping the global public opinion, have to understand that things have changed. That is the key to addressing the climate challenge.

Today, I would like to pay tribute to the pioneers of the ecological cause, to all the precursors who, not so long ago, had to face incredulity and disdain for their warnings and proposals. In a few years, mindsets have changed profoundly. Businesses and financial stakeholders, who yesterday were reluctant, are now prepared to commit and change their behaviour.

Do they still need to be sent the necessary signals? That is the challenge of the gradual introduction of carbon pricing, so that greenhouse gas emissions have a cost that corresponds to the damage inflicted upon the planet, and investment decisions are gradually changed so that all technologies can be universally accessible.

Heads of state and government, I am going to be frank: to resolve the climate crisis, goodwill and statements of intent are not enough. We are coming to a breaking point. Paris must be the starting point of a profound shift. We can no longer consider nature as a mere bottomless reservoir of resources there for our sole and full benefit.

This transformation is both a moral obligation and a global opportunity, for it opens up possibilities for development with renewable energies, clean transport, waste recycling, agro-ecology, preservation of biodiversity, and universal access to all global public goods.

Summit challenges

Thus, when electricity is made accessible to all, particularly in Africa, more than just light will be provided. Knowledge, education and development will be brought. On this first day of the conference, we have a wall to climb. This wall is built of our selfishness, our apprehensions and our resignation. This wall is built of indifference, carelessness and powerlessness. It is not insurmountable. Everything depends on us.

Heads of state and government, the hopes of all mankind rest upon your shoulders. I, myself, see in my own role how we need to combine the imperative of urgency – and everything it brings with it, including tragic events – and long-term choices. Of course, that balance is not easy to find, far from it. But once again, we have no choice.

Our greatest challenge is to move on from a globalization based on competition to a model based on cooperation, where protection will be more viable than destruction. We need to think of our planet as a single space, establishing a pact of fairness between the North and South and a partnership between mankind and nature.

That is why we are gathered here, as world leaders. That is why the Paris Climate Conference is an exceptional event. In just a few days, we will decide for several decades. The greatest danger is not that our target is too difficult and that we miss it. The greatest danger is that it is too easy, and that we hit it.

So we need to set the bar as high as possible so that we can, at the very least, come close to this ambition, for here, in Paris, it is the planet’s very future we are deciding on. Thank you./.

Paris Climate Conference – Speech by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, President of the Paris Climate Conference, at the meeting of heads of state and government

Le Bourget, 30 November 2015

President of the French Republic,

Secretary-General of the United Nations,

Ladies and gentlemen heads of state and government,

Ladies and gentlemen delegates,

Last week, knowing that I would be presiding over COP21, all the people I met asked me the same question: will the Paris Climate Conference be a success?

The first condition for that success has been fulfilled thanks to you. Almost 150 of you, heads of state and government, are gathered here despite the tragedy. And across the conference site, several thousand delegates and civil society leaders are present, while millions more are active around the world. Through your mobilization, you show that civilization and solidarity are stronger than barbarism. Thank you.

I am confident that the second condition for success will also be fulfilled. We wanted to bring together the world’s non-governmental stakeholders for the climate: cities, regions, businesses, non-governmental organizations, social and economic forces, and individuals. In liaison with the UN, of which the Secretary-General has been fully mobilized, the organization of this conference was built with this in mind: the decisions of the governments are crucial, but those of non-governmental stakeholders are too. On this very spot, in the coming hours and days, important, concrete commitments will be announced by hundreds of local government bodies and businesses. Powerful initiatives will be launched, sometimes in the framework of public-private partnership, such as in the area of innovation for clean technologies, solar energy and carbon pricing. All these actions are promising for the fight against global warming. That fight is both a vital constraint and an essential opportunity for sustainable development that reconciles economics, ethics and ecology.

The third condition for success is the most difficult: it is that we reach a universal, ambitious climate agreement at the end of this conference, in just 11 days’ time. This agreement will need to be differentiated, fair, sustainable, dynamic, balanced and legally binding, and will need to ensure that by 2100 the global temperature does not rise by 2°C – or even 1.5°C – compared to the pre-industrial era because of greenhouse gas emissions. Each of these terms refers to specific provisions on which we have been unable to conclude fully in the past. That is the challenge of the discussions our ministers and negotiators will be having. We must not waste time in procedural debates. We need to handle the substantive issues and find solutions together. As President of COP21, I will have to listen to you all, be impartial and act for an ambitious compromise.

There are several encouraging signs. Awareness that a universal agreement is indispensable has progressed a great deal, spurred on by the fact that 2014 was the hottest year on record, and that 2015 will be worse. The work of scientists has established unquestionably the diagnosis and the prognosis. The commitment of major spiritual and religious leaders is powerful, and that of governments is generally moving in the right direction.

This is demonstrated by the number of national contributions by states – those INDCs. To date, 183 INDCs have been published, representing more than 95% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Yes, their ambition varies, but the very fact that almost every country has carried out this step shows a remarkable progression and allows us to anticipate the progress that will be necessary in the future. For be warned! The total of these contributions does divert us away from the 4°C, 5°C or 6°C of warming predicted by the IPCC in unacceptable business-as-usual scenarios, but will not be enough to ensure that we will stay within the 1.5°C or 2°C ceiling. This is why the periodical stock-taking and ratcheting-up mechanisms, which I hope we will be able to include in our agreement, are crucial.

Lastly, I would like to underline one aspect: a global climate agreement is not just some requirement that the developed countries seek to impose upon developing countries. No, it is a universal necessity which we need to address together. Climate solidarity needs to move forward, as does the mobilization of financing and technologies for the countries of the South. The Paris agreement also needs to be a pact for justice and against inequalities. As president of this conference, my role will be to ensure that.

On all these points, we – my minister and negotiator colleagues and I – would like you to give the vital political momentum needed on this first day, for your statements to be so strong that they make any outcome other than success impossible!

Ladies and gentlemen heads of state and government,

At the end of 2016, France will hand over to our Moroccan friends, just as we have taken over from our Peruvian friends, who have accomplished remarkable work. But this year, in 2015, matters are urgent. Indeed, greenhouse gases continue to accumulate in the atmosphere, to the extent that, if no action is taken – or action is taken too late – the situation will be irreversible. Here and now, there is particular momentum. It was to this conference that the Durban COP in 2011 specifically entrusted the task of reaching an agreement. COP21 needs to be a tipping point, a turning point. Paris will no doubt not resolve everything, but nothing can be resolved without it.

At this moment I have in mind, and at heart, the stories and the faces I have encountered in recent months while preparing the conference. In Bangladesh, an old lady, tired and dignified, who has had to move nine times because of flooding, asked if COP21 would change that. In the far North, I have in mind the engineer who showed me the devastating collapses of the ice pack and their consequences. In Cochabamba, a Bolivian peasant farmer cried over the damage caused by failure to look after Mother Earth, hoping he could trust us. And in Africa, there was a young woman – for women and the poor are the first victims – who described the spectacular drying up of Lake Chad and its disastrous consequences. Their lives, and those of hundreds of millions of our brothers and sisters in humanity, depend on our answers and our commitments here.

Ladies and gentlemen heads of state and government,

At the entrance to this room, you may have seen, up high, a vast photograph. It symbolizes what’s at stake at our conference. On the left of the photo is a tree that has lost all its leaves, replaced with plastic bags, a sort of skeleton in an environment that has become inhuman. On the right of the photo, there is the portrait of a harmonious child who awakens. And in the middle is a butterfly, bearing hope. That is where we are. Either we fail in Paris, and there will be desolation. Or we will conclude an ambitious agreement to act against global warming, and a beautiful future lies ahead.

I believe in success. I believe because I hope for it. I believe because all of us know that combating global warming is more than just an environmental matter. It is an essential condition to provide the whole world with food and water, to save biodiversity and protect health, to combat poverty and mass migration, to discourage war and foster peace, and ultimately to give sustainable development and life a chance.

As 2015 comes to an end, it is France’s responsibility, along with all of you, to help address two of the greatest challenges of the century: combating terrorism and fighting climate change. Today’s generations are urging us to act, while tomorrow’s generations will judge our action. We cannot hear them yet, but in a way they are already watching us. The word “historic” is often a hyperbole. Today, it is not. Together, let us make the Paris Climate Conference the historic success the world is waiting for./.

Paris Climate Conference – Investiture speech by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, President of the Paris Climate Conference (excerpts)

Le Bourget, 30 November 2015


This Paris conference is special, because at the end of the mandate set in Durban in 2011, we must adopt during this COP21 – I quote words you’re familiar with – a new “protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties” to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. In order to achieve that, we have only 11 days ahead of us, and even less given the periods necessary for the final legal checks and translation into the United Nations’ six languages. We have an obligation to succeed.

In recent months I’ve met many of you, in Lima, Geneva, Bonn, Paris and various countries. Many of you asked me how the French presidency would conceive its role during this COP21. I’ll sum it up in four words: listening, transparency, ambition, compromise.

The first word is listening. I will listen to everyone, as I have striven to do from the outset. I’ll ensure that every viewpoint is taken into account. France, as you know, is an independent nation and is committed to equality between all countries. We’ll ensure an impartial presidency which respects everyone. I’ll maintain this requirement until the end of the conference.

The second word is transparency. We have no hidden agenda or secret plan, and no text in our pocket. We want an inclusive presidency that creates the conditions for trust between everyone, and I’ll do what is necessary to deserve yours. In exchange, I expect you to be very frank and inform me daily of points where obstacles remain.

The third is about stringency: ambition. The stakes are too high and the climate threat too great for us to be content with a minimum agreement. It’s that voice of ambition that your heads of state and government who have come to Paris will make heard in a few moments’ time. It’s a requirement I’ll have to uphold throughout the conference.

Finally, the French presidency will do everything to facilitate compromise. In the text which is the very basis of your work, many options remain open. Your task will consist in deciding on as many as possible by Saturday 5 December, the date when the ADP group’s co-chairs have agreed to hand me a draft agreement. My goal is for us then to concentrate, with the ministers and heads of delegation, on any final political points that remain to be arbitrated. So we’ll have to make swift progress and tackle the substantial issues without getting distracted by procedural debates. In this work, the French presidency, with the invaluable support of Christiana Figueres and the Executive Secretary’s team, will be at your disposal to bring viewpoints together and facilitate points of agreement.

Dear friends,

On this opening day of the Paris conference, success has not yet been achieved, but it is within our reach. (…) It is up to us to show we are equal to our responsibilities, so that we can say to the world, on the evening of 11 December, the two words it is waiting for: mission accomplished. Thank you./.

Published on 08/12/2015

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