Paris 2015 climate summit blow as key minister resigns

NEWS: Pascal Canfin resignation “a loss” to UN climate process say observers, as new government forms

Source: Flickr/Never House

Source: Flickr/Never House

By Sophie Yeo

Preparations for next year’s make-or-break UN climate summit Paris next year have suffered a blow after the minister responsible for organising the event resigned from the French government.

Pascal Canfin, the deputy minister for development, has been spearheading France’s plans for the Conference in 2015, where the UN hopes countries will sign off a long-awaited treaty on climate change.

But on Monday night the Green Party minister announced that he would no longer serve in government due to political differences with France’s newly appointed Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

President Francois Hollande chose the centrist Valls to be his second-in-command after a surge of right-wing victories at recent municipal elections threw the ruling Socialist Party into disarray, causing the whole government to resign. Canfin, alongside fellow Green minister Cécile Duflot, announced that they would not join the new government under Valls.

Canfin’s resignation was described as a “loss” by Thomas Spencer from the Paris-based Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI).

“He’s been a vocal advocate of the issue and the public face of the French government’s presidency preparations,” he said, adding: “It’s a loss in terms of the capacity of the French government on a day to day basis being invested on the political level.”

Paul Watkinson, lead negotiator for France at the UN climate talks, tweeted that his resignation was “a loss” for France as they approach the crucial climate conference in 2015.

Uncertain politics

Canfin had been working alongside Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius to prepare for the climate conference in Paris in a year’s time.

While Fabius is tipped to hold the presidency of the meeting, Canfin has been responsible for the ongoing preparations for the meeting.

Manon Dufour, from environmental think tank E3G, said that the resignation arrived at a bad time.

With just over a year to go until the deal is meant to be struck, and only a few months until countries are supposed to present their “bold pledges” to the UN Secretary General, everyone is beginning to think about how they can strengthen their diplomatic position within the process.

“Efforts really need to be intensified at the UN level in preparation for the Ban Ki-moon summit, but also at a bilateral level, with China, the US and the EU,” said Dufour. “It’s sad we’re losing a very competent and committed politician on this issue.”


So far, there have been no indications of who will replace Canfin. How smoothly the process goes from here depends on whether Fabius survives further sweeping changes to the French government.

Continuity would be important, said Dufour: “It doesn’t show much commitment to change the main in charge halfway through the process.”

According to Spencer, the international impact of the resignation would be minimal as long as Fabius remained in place, whom he said would become more involved in the process as the deadline nears.

“Canfin is a loss, but not in terms of the heavyweight diplomatic force behind the Conference. It’s more a question of how we can find a day to day visibility on the issue at a political level.”

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