France ready to step in if climate talks stall, says Tubiana

Chief French climate diplomat says hosts of COP21 will take lead if countries fail to deliver new text by August

(UN Photo/Rick Bajornas)

(UN Photo/Rick Bajornas)

By Ed King in Barcelona

France will produce its own text for a global climate change agreement if countries taking part in UN negotiations fail to cut the current 90-page document down to size.

The host of this year’s UN summit, where an emissions cutting pact between nearly 200 countries is set to be finalised, wants a shorter document by the end of the summer.

“We have to get a simpler text by June or the latest by the end of August to work with it,” France’s top climate diplomat Laurence Tubiana told RTCC, speaking at the Carbon Expo event in Barcelona.

“If this does not proceed from the normal process of course that will rely on the presidency of the COP in the summer to produce a new document.

“We don’t want that so we will push and press for everyone to deliver a shorter text by the end of August – really defining what needs to be decided in Paris, what will be decided after and what are the core principles in the agreement.”

Tubiana said France wants the main elements of the deal ready by October to ensure there were “no surprises” that could stymie the process.

The last time the UN attempted to secure a global climate solution ended in farce just under six years ago at a summit in Copenhagen, with a small group of major emitters stitching together a hurried voluntary deal after negotiations over a huge set of proposals stalled.

Three sessions of negotiations have been allocated for envoys to slim down the text between now and December, with the first starting next month in Bonn.

Decisions this UN forum need to be decided by consensus, meaning it only takes a small group of countries to block suggested additions to agreements.

Tubiana admitted the demand for an early resolution to the negotiating text added a level of pressure on countries that could slow talks further, but insisted it was essential work sped up.

“A logical result of this is countries are beginning to be tougher – because they don’t want to show their cards – and that’s what will happen at this summit, to show this is time to really agree on a compromise,” she said.

“Nuances and positions are very diverse, so it’s difficult to align everybody, and there are strong views from different views, but I’m confident because countries want to agree in Paris.”

Adaptation

Since UN climate talks started in 1991 greenhouse gas emissions have swelled to record levels. Scientists now say the world has under 30 years before dangerous levels of warming, causing droughts, floods and rising sea levels are guaranteed.

France will ensure that plans to help countries adapt to future climate extremes are an integral part of any deal, Tubiana stressed, acknowledging that on current form emission cuts will not limit warming to the internationally agreed 2C above pre-industrial levels ceiling.

The role of Paris will be to “accelerate” the trajectory of carbon reductions, she stressed, and also to allow the most climate vulnerable countries a chance to make their case for greater ambition.

“In my view… in the view of [foreign] minister Fabius it’s the responsibility of the presidency to ensure those who have no voice have a voice – we should not allow an agreement that puts the African countries, LDCs [least developed countries] or Bangladesh aside,” she said.

“We have to prepare special packages for less developing countries and the more affected ones – that’s why adaption has to be treated in equal parity to mitigation.”

Business interest

A successful Paris pact or protocol would also direct a “broad signal” to business she said, stressing the need for it to speak to “not only with negotiators but also with the real economy.”

It could also offer more clarity on how to price carbon – a subject eagerly embraced in recent weeks by German chancellor Angela Merkel, France president Francois Hollande and a diverse set of business leaders including Tony Hayward, head of coal mining giant Glencore-Xstrata.

Carbon markets and pricing were a key part of any solution to climate change, accepted Tubiana, but she said they could not be seen as a one-stop cure for soaring emissions.

“Government has to do urban planning, develop technology on clean transport… they have to do a selection of things to make carbon pricing effective,” she said.

“If you don’t have solutions to move from private car to public transport – even if you put a very high tax on the fuel or carbon price people cannot move, so you have to find a solution.”

Clarification (29/5)

The French presidency of COP21 has emailed RTCC to emphasise its support for the current round of UN climate talks:

“If this does not proceed from the normal process of course that will rely on the presidency of the COP in the summer to produce a new document. Upcoming  French presidency don’t want that so we will push and press for everyone to deliver a shorter text by the end of August – really defining what needs to be decided in Paris, what will be decided after and what are the core principles in the agreement. The objective of the French Presidency is to avoid having to produce a text ourselves. On the contrary, the Presidency wants to be able to use the text prepared by the ADP.”

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