Global shift to renewables under way, says climate envoy
Paris Climate Conference – Interview given by the French government’s Ambassador for Climate Negotiations and Special Representative for the Paris Climate Conference, to the daily newspaper Libération
Paris, 24 November 2015
Q. – In what way does COP21 differ from the Copenhagen conference, whose failure is in everyone’s minds?
THE AMBASSADOR – The international situation has profoundly changed. In the run-up to COP21, every country has had to draw up a national contribution. So from being an international political problem, climate change has become a domestic political issue. That’s a real success. The climate issue is no longer theoretical: it’s become a problem of development, including in France. For example, the context in which the debate on the energy transition has taken place has created domestic obligations and led to progress, embodied in the energy transition act. Let’s take the official development assistance aspect. At international level, the President and Laurent Fabius have made the release of international climate finance their priority. So the government has aligned French development aid policy to its climate commitments. An amendment has been presented to stop the reduction in aid and set ourselves an ambitious target. Nobody gets out of the climate negotiations unscathed – in the positive sense of the term.
Q. – Is the European contribution perceived by some as unambitious compared to that of some countries of the South?
THE AMBASSADOR – For a long time the European Union has been leading the negotiations. Of course there are very lively debates between its members, but you can’t say Europe’s ambition is declining. And it’s natural for there to be a sort of catching-up on the part of certain countries of the South. I’m thinking of Ethiopia, which wants to move towards carbon neutrality before 2030, by basing its economic development on renewable energy.
Q. – Today we have words; when will we move on to deeds?
THE AMBASSADOR – I well understand the feeling of impatience being expressed by many people involved. But when you read the contributions already received, you realize that by 2030 we’ll have an explosion of renewable energy all over the world. Moreover, the trend has already begun. We can already see it through the investments on the ground. They’re not just words: there are already developments too, and we must get the scale of these changed. That’s why the French negotiation strategy proposed to the government is organized around a package, including the agreement that will be signed at COP21 but also the economic signals and the local policies that will accentuate the trend.
Q. – How can the risk of greenwashing be avoided?
THE AMBASSADOR – Companies must make commitments and we mustn’t hesitate in pressing them to go further. This is what Laurent Fabius did by asking oil companies not just to stop gas flaring. We also need to send out economic signals which show that carbon-intensive activities belong to the past. France met Mark Carney, Chair of the Financial Stability Board, with the aim of getting banks’ asset portfolios to incorporate climate and carbon risk in their assessment. Companies won’t automatically commit to making all the necessary changes, because they will entail some very radical ones. So, to avoid greenwashing, we must be watchful, ask for reports etc. We must build a system of governance in order to assess the value and seriousness of everyone’s commitments. This is also what we’ll be discussing in Paris./.