UN climate conference is likely to be a success, negotiator says

COP21 summit aims for commitments to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius

French president Francois Hollande looks on a globe during an exhibition promoting the Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21). Photograph: Michel Euler/AFP/Getty Images

French president Francois Hollande looks on a globe during an exhibition promoting the Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21). Photograph: Michel Euler/AFP/Getty Images


The top French negotiator for the major United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris scheduled for the end of the year now believes there is a 70 per cent chance of a successful outcome at the critical global summit.

Ambassador Laurence Tubiana is head of the general secretariat for the conference (known as COP21), which hopes to get commitments from more than 190 countries to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.

For the first time in 20 years of such conventions, the French summit aims to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on the climate, limiting global warming and reducing carbon emissions.

Mme Tubiana was interviewed by live video-link from the Google offices on Friday by a number of international newspapers, including Le Monde, The Guardian, and The Irish Times.

She had just returned from the UN in New York, where the last round of negotiations had been conducted before the Paris conference.

She said that 146 countries have submitted their national climate action plans to the UN.

These countries comprise almost 90 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Some 50 countries have yet to submit plans.

Mme Tubiana said that some of these countries had to deal with internal political difficulties, but she expressed confidence that those difficulties would be overcome before the 12-day conference begins on November 30th.

She said it was crucial that if agreement were reached it would be followed by quick action.

“I want low-carbon to be the new normal and I want Paris to be the catalyst of that.”

Crucial negotiations

With two months to go, Mme Tubiana characterised negotiations on the conference text over the next 10 days as “crucial”.

She also said a three-day “pre-COP” conference in early November, involving ministers from 80 countries, would also be instrumental in the effort to reach a successful outcome.

She said many lessons were learned from the global summit held in Copenhagen in late 2009.

She said that since then there had been a change in global geopolitics.

“The concept behind the preparation was probably too much oriented towards a classic Europe-US discussion.”

She said that there was a belief that if the EU and US came to an agreement, others would buy in. That was not the case.

She also accepted a lack of transparency six years ago.

“You cannot prepare a text in a group and try to sell it to the rest.”

She said that the secretariat now insists on transparency, sending the papers before and after every set of negotiations.

“It’s all open. Everyone who wants to come can see it.”

She also said the dispensation had changed since Copenhagen.

Several large players were not prepared then, including China, India and Brazil.

She said all were prepared now and there was a consensus that the major risks had increased.

Mme Tubiana said that attitudes had changed, even in oil-producing countries, and the next phase would be more optimistic.

She said that there would be electricity storage by 2025, much cleaner fuels, more progress in biomass development and a move towards renewable energy.

Some of the small islands in the Pacific Ocean, which are seen as the most vulnerable, have asked for a target of limiting global warmth to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“There is a debate about 1.5 degrees, which is very important,” Mme Tubiana said.