Foreign Minister looks at prospects for low-carbon world

Climate disruption – Speech by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, at the conclusion of the Convergences World Forum (excerpts)

Paris, 10 September 2014

“Goal 2030: Building tomorrow’s world together”


We won’t emerge from the “great divergence” by replicating every last detail of the growth model that caused it. When two-thirds of the world’s population hurriedly pursue development models which enabled the developed countries to expand rapidly but which don’t work in the long term, there’s a big risk that this dynamic will shatter and stifle prosperity. How can we address this appetite for growth, this aspiration for modern comfort, without disappointing people?

One of the key dimensions of this model has been the large-scale use of fossil fuels, with its accompanying pollution, damage to health and the environment, and inequalities. To make a success of the “great convergence”, we’ll have to go beyond a model based on the almost exclusive use of high-carbon fuels. Making a success of the “post-carbon era” is the necessary condition for a fair world.

In this regard, 2030 is a key date. If the trajectory hasn’t seriously changed by then – which means decisions now – it will be extremely difficult to avoid the worst.

Making a success of the “post-carbon era” means not exceeding an average temperature increase of 2ºC compared to the pre-industrial era. That means average CO2 emissions per inhabitant converging at around 1.6 tonnes per year in 2050. Of course, depending on each country’s situation, some will be above and others below. But the figure gives an indication of what will put us on the right track in 2050, which everyone can compare with their current emissions. The closer the mode of development can get to this figure, the better placed each country will be to gain from this vast transformation. And it’s in everyone’s interest to be as well placed as possible.

How can we achieve this? I’m not going to wave scientific reports on climate disruption at you. I don’t like that phrase “global warming”. First of all, it’s scientifically inaccurate, because in some cases the disruption will take the form of warming, in other cases cooling, and above all there will be a rise in extreme phenomena. We’re talking about genuine disruption. When you see the scientific reports, they’re very convincing. I note that in Europe and other countries, climate scepticism is on the decline, but it mustn’t give way to the climate fatalism of saying the deadlines are a long way away and so we’re not interested. Many players have understood perfectly that a lower-carbon economy will be inevitable. The problem is creating the political conditions for accepting such a change in the growth model. To that end, we must create trust between countries which have industrialized at different times and under different conditions and which, as a result, sometimes have difficulty understanding each other. We must avoid people confining themselves to a vision dictated by their history, their level of development and their constraints.

With “Paris 2015”, France, as holder of the presidency, is going to have a huge responsibility. We must succeed in creating a consensus between 190 countries about certain rules of action. As we see it, the work at the end of 2015 – which is being prepared as of next week with the UN summit, where I’ll be with Mme Hidalgo, and at the end of the year with the COP20, whose presidency our Peruvian friends are holding – will have to enable us to convince people.

We must remain cautious, but positive developments are occurring. Europe is working on ambitious objectives for 2030 but, beware, Europe hasn’t taken any decisions yet and it’s essential, if it wants to carry weight with the others, that during the October summit we take decisions as Europeans. In the United States, there are encouraging developments: emissions have finally started going down, but this trend can and must be developed. President Obama and my colleague John Kerry are working on this, not without strong resistance from certain pressure groups. China is changing due to the commitment of its leaders, a level of atmospheric pollution deemed intolerable for the people, and internal debate about the sustainability of its growth model. Some people are even talking about China’s emissions peaking between now and 2030. In India, where I was recently, we’re hoping that the new Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, whose environmental sensibilities are known, will be able to overcome resistance and begin the tough job of reorientating the economy. This doesn’t mean there are no obstacles, but attitudes are changing with, among other things, very major countries determined to move forward. (…)./.

Last modified on 08/09/2015

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