Seminarium om Arktis och klimatet (6 november 2014) [fr]

Ambassadör Jacques Lapouges tal på engelska under ett seminarium om Arktis och klimatet den 6 november 2014.

"Thank you for inviting me to this workshop on Arctic. Well, I certainly have no credentials on Arctic issues, compared to all of you, even though I had the good fortune to be invited last year, by the Norwegian Government, to their high north study tour in Svalbard. A truly memorable experience.

And a testimony of France’s long-standing commitment in the Arctic! As you probably know, France has been active for a long time, especially in the field of research, in both the Arctic and the AntArctic regions. The French Institut Paul Emile Victor, the equivalent of Polarsekretariatet here in Sweden, dedicates 29 % of its annual budget to supporting research in the Arctic. The most visible commitment is probably the French-German research base in Ny-Ålesund, an example of how international cooperation in the field of research can be beneficial to better knowledge and to the region itself.

At the national level, France has coordinated its research activities, which deal with glaciology and chemistry as well as sociology and ethnology, in order to maximize the outcomes of more than 20 research programs, and the university in Versailles has launched in 2010 a center dedicated to Arctic studies. Today, this center attracts students and researchers from all over the world, who want to invest their energy in Arctic matters.

As the last testimony of our interest in the region, I would like to mention that France is currently preparing what we call a national roadmap for the Arctic, an Arctic strategy that aims at clarifying our national objectives and the vision we have on the importance of the region and the role France could play in it. It is being finalized and should be presented in the beginning of next year. But It is clear that scientific cooperation will be one of the main issues it will address.
If I am not an expert on Arctic issues, I have a few more credentials on climate change negotiations. First because I was France’s ambassador for these negotiations till last June. And then because, as you know, France will host the very important conference on climate change in December 2015, the so called COP21 in the jargon, when a universal and binding agreement on commitments to reduce CO2 emissions will have to be concluded.

The links between climate change and the Arctic have been documented for years and so I shall not elaborate today, but it is clear that they play both ways. First, the Arctic is the main victim of climate change, and it is a kind of thermometer of the global evolution. We know it is warming at a rate of approximately twice the average because of the famous albedo effect, the loss of reflection from the snow and the ice, which means that more sun’s energy is absorbed by the ocean. We also know that the sea ice has decreased by around 15 pc since the 70’s, twice as much in summer. The impact of these evolutions on the local populations, the biodiversity or the fisheries are easy to see.

But what is a source of even greater concern is the feedback effect of Arctic warming, its impact on the global climate. Because it serves as a refrigerator for the rest of the world. Because sea-ice melting has a direct impact on global sea levels. And because, but scientists are more cautious on these issues, it could also have an impact on ocean circulation or trigger permafrost thawing that would release additional methane and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

What is clear therefore is that the success of the present climate change negotiations has an existential importance for the planet as a whole, but particularly for the fate of the Arctic. So let me take a few minutes to tell you how we assess the state of these negotiations roughly one year before Paris.

If there is something we can say about the fifth IPCC report, whose conclusions for leaders have just been adopted, it is that it shouldn’t surprise anyone. The assessment report delivers a diagnosis that is clear and disturbing : climate change is real, caused by us, happening now, and our current failure to address it appropriately is putting us on track for a four degrees Celsius warmer world.
But fortunately, it seems that a paradigm shift is happening in the way we are talking about climate change and dealing with it – and not just in France or Sweden. Countries that many climate advocates had given up on, such as China, are getting back in the game. President Obama is definitely committed. And it is worth recalling that if you add up the EU, the US and China, you have got more than half of the world’s CO2 emissions. Cities and Regions are committed, look at the likes of Michael Bloomberg and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Companies come to see sustainability not as a costly generosity, but as a proof of efficient management. Investors are finally taking climate disruption for what it is – one of the biggest systemic risks we’ve ever known. Clean technologies are becoming mature and competitive.

All these signs are converging towards a new narrative – one that presents climate change not as a potential constraint, but also as an opportunity. An opportunity to make low- carbon economies not just something that we need, but something we want – because it delivers meaningful jobs and healthier lives. These are, as we know, the main conclusions of the Calderon commission report on the New climate economy that was commissioned in particular by Sweden.

What France is striving to do, in the run up to the COP 21 conference, is to seize this opportunity, and actively facilitate with all partners and stakeholders the conclusion of an ambitious, universal climate agreement that can help bring this narrative to life. We are also intent on supporting and promoting climate-friendly initiatives outside the negotiations, under a “positive agenda” that can help encourage the talks. We want these initiatives to reinforce and multiply themselves after the successful UN Secretary General’s “climate summit” last September, so that they can receive political, financial and, we hope, legal support in Paris.

Because, if Paris fails to deliver, the declining faith of the public in international climate negotiations will probably be damaged beyond repair. And if we don’t take rapid and decisive actions to curb our emissions before 2020, the door of the 2°C warming limit will slam in our face.

We are aware of the difficulties, the challenges ahead. Some see the current UN climate talks as proof that the divides between countries are just too large to allow cooperation. They say the tone of the discussions remind them painfully of the pre-Copenhagen phase. But we perceive it differently. Yes, there are countries that act tough, making consensus very difficult to reach. It is because they know that there is a lot at stake for them, economically, in terms of efforts, in terms of impacts. But we would be worried if these talks happened in a deafening silence – the noise that it makes shows that nearly all countries have understood that the process will probably deliver in 2015, and that they must actively take part in defining its outcome.
There are a handful of key criteria that would make the outcome successful:

First, it must be universal. The world has changed since countries signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, more than twenty years ago. The Kyoto protocol currently binds nations that represent only a small and declining share of the world’s emissions, with reduction targets that are not in line with what science recommends ;

Second, the agreement must be ambitious. It cannot be a half-empty political declaration, or a collection of minimal reduction targets. It must catalyze the kind of action needed to put the world on a path consistent with the 2°C objective;

Third, the agreement must be flexible. We cannot get everyone on board if we do not design a spectrum of different kinds of possible actions and commitments, suited to the countries’ respective responsibilities and capacities.

Universal, ambitious and flexible: we know that in these three words lie many ambiguities, many different definitions. We also know that another key word – binding – will cause many headaches and sleepless nights. And we know that providing climate finance for developing countries, particularly in Africa, will be. In this regard, the launching of the Green Fund, with very generous pledges from France and Sweden, is an important signal.

If we want a meaningful global deal in 2015, every country will have to do their homework. They will have to engage with political and business decision-makers at home; summon their absolute most in terms of emissions reduction pledges and financial contributions, making sure it stays in line with science; convince their public opinion that a deal is in the national interest, but also that it works for them and their family; spark renewed awareness of climate change in the media, the academia, the NGO community. Anyone with an interest in our climate future must ensure that this homework is done, and well done...

The European Union, for its part, has taken the right decision by adopting recently a strong objective for the 2030 climate and energy package, of at least 40 % emissions reduction relative to 1990. Of course, no one wants to be the first on the dance-floor, but we must show other countries that the ambition bar for 2015 is set high.
To sum up, in the run-up to 2015 we will, as presidency, try to play proactively, collectively, and positively. We will strive to reinforce the level of ambition in the negotiations; ensure that everyone feels included in the discussions; and help change the dominant perception of climate change, from a burden to a challenge, full of opportunities. We know that these priorities are shared by the current presidency of the COP, Peru, and we are confident that they will be reflected in Lima, next month, which will be a key milestone on the road to Paris.

We believe it is indeed time to move “from science to action”. We could keep kicking the can down the road, telling ourselves we have more time. But we know we do not, especially in the Arctic, so let us hope that this spirit of responsibility will prevail next year."

Senast uppdaterad 12/10/2015