"We have 500 days to avoid a climate disaster", says Foreign Minister

Climate disruption – Reply by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, to a question in the National Assembly

Paris, 14 May 2014

We have 500 days to avoid a climate disaster. As you said, it’s France that will be hosting the major climate conference in December 2015.

Between now and then, there’s a whole series of stages: Europe’s adoption of a clear position, and France will do its utmost for this to happen: on 23 September, a conference organized by the United Nations Secretary-General where a number of countries – including France – are going to make commitments, and finally, at the end of the year, the COP20, which Peru will organize. Next year the major Paris climate conference will take place. It is of absolutely vital importance.

As regards Europe, if it wants to carry weight in the negotiation, it has to reach, on the basis of the Commission’s proposals – which are good proposals –, a genuine decision. This hasn’t been possible over the previous months; it must be done either in June or after the summer break.

In the way we tackle next year’s major conference, France has to be open and Europe must also pull its weight. France is counting on the support of the United States of America, China and a whole series of other countries in making this important meeting a success. It is the future of mankind, ladies and gentlemen, which is at stake here.

France won’t be arrogant but will use all its diplomatic strength to achieve success in December 2015.

2015 Paris climate conference/appointment of Mme Laurence Tubiana – Statement by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development

Paris, 15 May 2014

France will next year host and chair the very important COP21 on climate disruption.

I have asked Mme Laurence Tubiana to be my special representative for this 2015 Paris climate conference.

Laurence Tubiana is a world-renowned expert on climate issues. Among other things, she is President of the Board of Governors of the French Development Agency and Director of the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations.

She will be accompanying me tomorrow on my visit to China, where I shall be discussing these issues. She will contribute her skills and vision to preparing the 2015 Paris climate conference, supporting the negotiation team.

In particular, her task will be to galvanize all stakeholders to promote a “positive agenda”, aimed at showing not only that the fight against climate disruption is essential but also that it can bring major benefits in terms of growth, employment and quality of life.

Climate disruption/Rendez-vous du Quai d’Orsay (1) – Speech by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development (excerpts)

Paris, 14 May 2014


We have 500 days – not a day more – to avoid a climate disaster. People often talk about climate change or global warming. I attach great importance to words, and as far as the French language is concerned I don’t think those words are very appropriate, because – without alluding to this or that political programme – change is seen as rather a positive thing, but in the case of climate, it isn’t at all. Some French people say: why not, since they might think Lille, for example, is going to join the Côte d’Azur? That’s absolutely not it. We must face up to climate disruption, climate chaos. The scientists, several of whom are present here, have said it: “you’d have to be blind not to see it”

We’re pursuing the goal of limiting the global temperature increase to 2ºC. But the IPCC’s latest report talks to us about 4-5 ºC, with cataclysmic consequences. We have 500 days to try and reverse the scenario, because in December 2015 French diplomacy – in this case I myself – will have the huge honour of chairing the 2015 Paris climate conference. And we mustn’t confuse France’s role as chair of the conference with France’s role as a country that must help ensure things go in the right direction at European level.

Five hundred days is extremely short. We’ve started working – many others with us. I’ll give you just a schedule of the main dates.

A whole series of meetings, at both European and international level, is going to be held in the coming weeks. Among other things, there’s a very important meeting in July. There’s also a date we must bear in mind which will, I hope, be very important: 23 September. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has decided to organize a special session at the United Nations where very major world leaders will commit their countries by setting out their plans for the coming years.

Then, at the end of this year, there will be the COP20, which will be held in Peru and preceded by a pre-COP, due to be held in Venezuela. It will be very important, because the agreement we’re leaning towards involves commitments, texts and discussions that must be prepared a long time in advance.

One of the reasons why Copenhagen didn’t produce the results we were counting on was because we set about it at the last moment, and whatever the calibre of the men and women concerned – and even if they’re great political leaders – you can’t manage it. You have to prepare it all a very long time in advance. So by means of the work the United Nations Secretary-General will do, by means of the work our Peruvian colleagues will do – backed by the Poles, who are currently in the follow-up phase to the Warsaw conference – we’d like to be able to put things in place.

Then, at the beginning of 2015, it’s been agreed that countries will have to enter into commitments for the future since COP21 focuses on what has to be done post-Kyoto in 2020. We must hope that, beforehand, Europe will have managed to make commitments, because it has to set an example. The report by the Commission is well done, but so far no decision has been taken. Europe has to take decisions so it can tell others that it has done its bit and that the other countries must try and do theirs. Concurrently, a lot of work will have to be done, particularly on issues to do with financing, because the countries in difficulty, the poor and less poor ones, are inevitably going to ask who’s going to pay.

Following these meetings, there will – let’s hope – be success at the end of 2015. This will be a huge issue, both because of the significance of what will be going on and because in Paris – more specifically, Le Bourget – there will be a gathering of 25,000 people. A decision will have to be taken by consensus at that point. Our experts will today be explaining to us what a legally binding agreement is, what a positive agenda can be – something which may not solve everything, but would help halt the 4 to 5ºC rise, i.e. a cataclysm. Thanks to the decisions we took and which will subsequently be developed, we’ll manage to control it and get back down to two degrees and to a liveable existence. This is no small matter because unlike many spheres, life itself is at stake here. Diplomats, in every country of the world, are going to have to discuss things and work them out. (…).

(1) A series of conferences/discussions at the French Foreign Ministry focusing on a particular area of foreign policy – in this case, the 2015 Paris climate conference.

Published on 10/09/2014

top of the page