A climate universal agreement is Paris conference’s aim
Laurent Fabius talked to the press on the day of the UN General Assembly high level meeting on climate change on June 29, 2015.
Hello everybody. I am here for the day. I was yesterday in Vienna for the negotiation about nuclear program of Iran and it was forecast that I would be here today because we have an important meeting about the COP21, and as I will chair the COP21, the Chairman of the General Assembly and Ban Ki-moon asked me to be here. I will make a statement this morning, I think with other colleagues and then I will take the opportunity to meet series of colleagues involved in climate change, attend a meeting and then I will be back tonight for Paris because we have a lot of things to do. And I will be back in Vienna during this week. Meanwhile we shall welcome the Chinese Prime Minister who is arriving in Paris tomorrow morning. This will be a busy week. I am open to your questions, mainly about climate change, because it is the aim of my visit here. But I imagine that maybe because you are curious, there will be other subjects.
Q - Yesterday the big developing countries - Brazil, India, China, South Africa, Mexico - released a statement appointing to the lack of any clear roadmap on developed countries in terms of funding and financial support for the developing world. They talked about a hundred billion per year by 2020. What is France going to do as chair of COP21 to ensure that you have a deal on the table ?
R - In fact, in the COP21 in Paris, there will be four different pillars. The main one is to try to get an agreement, the first agreement, universal agreement in order to be under 1.5 or 2 degrees. It is a text that we have to coin. It is rather complex. Today it is discussed but it is too long and there are many breakouts. But the aim and the success of the Paris conference will be - and I hope that it will be the case and we are working very hard for that - that we can get for the first time an universal agreement. First pillar.
Second pillar, what we call INDC (Intended Nationally Determined Contribution) : every single country must deliver its commitment for the future. Europe has already delivered its commitment for the 28 countries. The US have done so, many countries have done so. And probably China will do it today or in this coming week. Step by step the different countries will deliver. It is very important because it gives the commitments of the Nations and it is not included in the Paris agreement but obviously it accompanies it. Second.
Third, finance and technology, I will come back to it in a second.
And four - for the first time - what we call the Agenda for Action or Lima-Paris Agenda. What does it mean ? It means that we shall take advantage of the COP21 in order to ask many local authorities, many companies and civil society to take commitment as well. Many of them are doing that right now. It will be the first time and obviously it is very important because the decisions regarding climate change depend mainly on the local authorities and on the companies as well. These are the three pillars.
The fourth one is finance and technology. Because many countries, and they are right to say so, say « OK, it is good, we are committed to act, but where is the finance ? » And in particular, some countries say « all of us are committed but there are different responsibilities ». It is particularly the case for instance for African countries. They say « OK we are not contributing to green gas emissions but we are the first victims and therefore there is an enormous paradox and it is not fair ». Therefore they are asking for money and technologies as well. It is perfectly true that in Copenhagen a commitment has been taken to deliver by 2020 one hundred billion dollars a year, mainly by the rich countries towards the poor countries, or the developing countries. It is clear that we have to implement this commitment. Some countries, and it is your question, said « ok, some efforts have been done, but it is not enough ». We are discussing that right now. Maybe you have seen that recently there has been a G7 meeting where the richest countries have once again said we shall deliver. Germany announced 2 billion euros or dollars as new efforts. There has been the so-called green climate fund where we have put money. For instance France has put one billion euros and step by step the amount of money is increasing. Be careful, it is not only public money. Sometimes there is confusion. It is public and private. It is budgetary money and also non budgetary money. But it is very true that if we want to have a fair deal, we have to be more and more precise on this issue. And in the statement that I will deliver at the UN this morning as chair of the COP21, I will say that very precisely.
Q - On COP, March was the deadline when countries were encouraged to submit their final plans. It is almost July and we haven’t got India, Japan, Australia (inaudible). When do you get to the point where you get worried that you are not going to have enough countries with robust plans to come to a meaningful agreement ?
R - Obviously the sooner the better and the UN Secretary General has written a few weeks ago to everybody reminding them of the commitment. I don’t exactly remember the wording of the Lima agreement but it was said the limit is probably September or October, I don’t remember. As soon as possible if it is possible. Obviously as chairman of the COP21 it is my position as well. The sooner is the better.
Now, there are some countries, for which from a technical point of view it is not easy - for instance all the Africans countries with very small technical means - and it is the reason why different institutions among them French institutions have proposed to them both financing and technical assistance in order for them to decide. Because you know for the first time it is not easy to say « this is where I will be in 2030 in terms of gas emission », it is not easy. For other countries the reason is not technical but it is true that it is the first time that we negociate that kind of agreement but we hope that the maximum will be delivered as soon as possible.
Q - Minister, one more on climate. About a month ago, several of the oil majors based in Europe have written a letter saying they are against supporting a carbon pricing. How much impact at all is that having on the negotiations, and is there any hope or effort to get the big American companies, Exxon, Chevron on board ?
R - Thank you, because, you are right to notice that there has been a big shift, a big shift, in the business community about this climate issue. And there are different reasons to that : first, I would like to pay tribute to the scientific community because they have done a terrible job here in the UN. A few years ago, when you were discussing about climate, half of the audience would have said : does it exist, climate change ? And if it exists, has it a relationship with human action ? Today, we know. And therefore, we have to pay tribute to the scientific community.
Q - But the oil companies in particular ?
R - Yes, and obviously, the more the governments are convinced and acting into that direction, the more the scientific community is delivering clear messages, the more the business community is taking that into consideration. And there are different factors and different signs which all go in the same direction. When S andP, not only says, but acts in such a way, that there is now a climate risk, with what it means in terms of financial cost, it matters. When the oil companies say that is a real problem and we would like carbon pricing. When the largest financial fund in the world, which is Norwegian, decides to abandon its investments in carbon economy, it means that really, things are changing, and it’s very important, because apart from the public financing, what will be decisive, it’s the decisions which will be taken directly, either by the companies or by the local authorities, New York, California, in order to have less and less a carbon economy. And it could not have been imagined two years ago.
Obviously, you are familiar with that, but a few weeks ago, we had a meeting in Paris with a lot of large companies, and financial agencies, and what we listened to was unbelievable compared to what we were listening to, only one year ago. And moreover now, it can seem different, but it’s important too, we have highly spiritual authorities, like the Pope and some other high-level personalities, explaining why it is so important. You have the general public ; you have also universities here, which have decided in their endowments to act in such a way. The other day, I was discussing in Paris with Bill Gates in that direction, he was insisting on innovation. All of that is coming into the right direction. But, it remains very difficult. It will be my task. Because when you have in December, at the end of the COP21, a text, a long text, and you ask to the 196 parties « do you accept it ? »....therefore, it’s very difficult, but it’s worthwhile. And we are doing all that we can - France - in order to facilitate things.
Q - Any efforts to get American oil companies to make similar gesture ?
R - The more they will be, the better it is.
Q - How concerned are you that the Americans are so desperate for an Iran deal ? Are they willing to agree on something less than robust ?
R - No, I wouldn’t put this in these words. First, because it is not the way I think. And second, I happen to be a diplomat.
Q - When are you going to Vienna ?
R - When it is necessary. Anytime. This week, sure.
Q - How long is the extension ?
R - We agreed not to set a date.
Q - You said that there are going to be private and budgetary...
R - Public and private fund
Q - Is it up to each county to decide where the funding is coming from ?
R - No, what has been decided in Copenhagen, it is that everybody can give obviously, but it’s mainly the so-called rich and developed countries. There is no such thing as a law saying what « the US must give this, etc ». We had decided something, and it was very positive, in the G7 in Germany a few weeks ago. We are consulting on this. And it will be a very important element for the reasons I explained.
About Israel and Palestine. When was it ? I think it was two weeks ago or one week ago. I went to the Middle East and I had a meeting with series of leaders. First, some envoys of the Arab League, then the President of Egypt, then the King of Jordan, then President Abbas and then Prime Minister Netanyahu. Each of them had the same words : the Israeli-Palestinian question is not solved and it is very dangerous. On the one hand, there is no justice for Palestinians and where there is no justice there is no real peace. And on the other hand, the security of Israel is not ensured and it is not normal, it is not fair.
Today not many people are speaking about this question, Israel-Palestinian, but our assessment is that at any moment it can explode. If and when it explodes this is very, very, very problematic for the whole region and for the world because it is a basic question. Moreover, be careful because at a moment or another, Daesh can interfere with all that. Therefore we and it is a tradition of France which obviously is keen about security and peace - it is the first element of our foreign policy and it is one of the reasons why we are a permanent part of the Security council and as a permanent member - we want to discuss with all the actors and know if it is possible to move forward. What does it mean move forward ? We try that the two parts come back to negotiation, because there has to be negotiation between the Palestinians and the Israelis. I asked what the opinion of the Palestinians and the Israeli about it was. Second, we think that taking into consideration the past, if we want to get to a conclusion, it will be necessary to have an international accompanying body because there have been periods of time where there was no negotiation, there have been periods of time where there was a negotiation but there never was a conclusion to negotiation. Why ? Because it is very difficult for each party to make the last concessions which make it possible to have a conclusion. We think that an international body, including the Arabs, which is not the case today with the quartet because they are not in even though they have proposed a plan in 2002, is interesting. It could be an idea in order to facilitate the solution, not to impose because obviously the negotiation has to be considered by the parties to help.
We discussed too of a possible UN resolution at what time or the other. We discussed that, there was a very positive welcome on the Arab side, and particularly on the Palestinian side. With Mr. Netanyahu, it was more difficult because obviously he said « we don’t want an international diktat ». I said to him « well diktat is not a French name » and nobody wants a diktat, at least not us because we know what the realities are, but on the other hand, if there is no peace, no real peace, it is a menace to Israel as well, and we are good friends of the Palestinians and the Israelis as well. It is always a good thing to work for peace, which is the case for France. That is about it.
Q - On Israel-Palestine, do you have an idea when France will go forward with the resolution at the Security Council ?
R - Well the resolution, the focus has been put on this but the resolution is a tool, it is not an end by itself. We have to discuss that with the different parties and the first thing is this question of getting back to negotiation and having this international accompanying body. And if the resolution is necessary we will think about it. But you know be careful, all that is terribly difficult because this issue has been examined for 50 years. Nobody can say « I have the solution on that », that would be ridiculous. France is keen about not abandoning this problem because it is a very, very, very serious problem. Once more, when you see the reality on the ground and the problem itself you must think about the future and to avoid in this region with already a lot of difficulty to have an explosion in those circumstances. You never waste your time when you are working for peace.
Q - If the resolution is one tool as you say, just for the negotiations, is there possibly another tool that you’re thinking about ? An international accompanying body like the quartet body including Arab parties ?
R - It could be a quartet plus, a sort of quartet plus. This idea has been discussed by many people and I don’t want to go into the technicalities but it makes sense - everybody must acknowledge - that the Arabs who are part of the region and who are interested in the solution would be involved. It is reasonable.
Q - Do you believe you can persuade the Israelis that a quartet plus is in their interest ?
R - I will not negotiate directly with you I am sorry.
Q - You said that Daesh might interfere. What is your nightmare scenario ?
R - You know in Gaza the situation is very difficult. I don’t know if you have been in Gaza but it is very very difficult and there is a position of the Hamas, there are more radical people, the people themselves. And when you have such a difficult solution, every radical group can try and take advantage of this and obviously it would be highly damageable if the most radical of the radicals could take a pretext.
Q - Last time you were you said that France would push to have the Security Council the Islamic State to the ICC. What has happened to that ?
R - What we have done is to put them on the list of the criminal organizations. And everybody agrees that they are murderers. Now it’s not mainly today a question of legal tools, it’s a question of fighting them directly and indirectly, and mainly a legal aspect. But we have not changed our mind.
Q - À la fin de cette journée vous retournerez probablement à Vienne. La deadline initiale était le 30 juin. Est-ce que vous êtes confiant ? Ça peut être prolongé de quelques jours, sans doute même quelques semaines, non ?
R - Non, on parle de quelques jours. Si on avait considéré qu’il n’y avait aucun espoir de trouver un accord, on aurait arrêté. Nous avons donc décidé de nous donner quelques jours.
Je reviendrai à Vienne dès que ce sera nécessaire. Il faut un accord, mais un accord robuste, c’est-à-dire, oui au nucléaire civil, mais l’arme atomique, l’arme nucléaire non. Avec nos collègues - puisque nous sommes six d’un côté, les cinq membres permanent du Conseil de sécurité et l’Allemagne et de l’autre l’Iran -, nous précisons, nous discutons des conditions pour que cet accord soit effectivement robuste. C’est très compliqué, très technique, très difficile. Il y a des aspects de politique internationale qui s’y mêlent, mais j’espère que l’on va arriver à un accord solide. C’est en tout cas la condition que nous voulons.
Q - Could you give us your latest feelings about whether there is going to be an agreement in Vienna on the nuclear issue, and since France is so involved in the possibility of coming up with a new plan to try and break the deadlock on the Israeli- Palestinian issue, could you tell us where that plan is when you might be moving on that and what you are hearing about what the United States’ reaction is ?
R - These are two separate questions. About Iran, let’s be clear : so far, as France is concerned, we are in favor of an agreement, but it has to be what we call a robust agreement. Why ? Because the main issue is nuclear proliferation. As you know, since World War II several countries possess the nuclear weapon, and it could be used as a tool to avoid a war. But if in a region as eruptive as the Middle East you have nuclear weapons, obviously it would be very dangerous and I do not have to comment on that.
The question has been raised : what about the Iranians ? You know that there has been some concerns about the possible military dimension. What is the aim of the negotiation ? The aim is summarized at the beginning of the text we are working on. I quote : under no circumstances Iran will ever get, or keep or acquire any nuclear weapon. Under no circumstances. It means that so far as civil nuclear energy is concerned, it is quite OK, there is no problem. But so far as the nuclear weapon is concerned, the answer is no. We have to draw all the technical consequences of this statement, that we accept, I mean the six, five plus one, and Iran accepts. Now why does this agreement have to be robust and what does it mean ? It has to be robust because if the agreement - we can sign an agreement -is not considered as being serious and robust, what will happen ? Other countries, some other countries in the region will get nuclear as well. They will say OK, you have signed an agreement but we are not convinced by your agreement, because it is not robust, that is why we have to become nuclear ourselves. And it would be very dangerous because this region, which already is in a particular position, will be in a very dangerous position if several countries get nuclear.
And now that the question is raised, what does it mean, robust ? So far as France is concerned, we have put at least three conditions : the first one is that there has to be some limitation so far as the production and the research are concerned. We have made progress on that but it still has to be completely agreed. The second is that the IAEA has to be able to check, to verify things. Because if you cannot check on the ground, obviously the agreement is a question mark. We have also a third element which is that if there is an agreement there will be a lifting of sanctions, but if the agreement is not implemented there has to be what we call a snapback mechanism which automatically will bring back the sanctions. And we are discussing that. We have made some progress but still it is not the end of a process because in particular the Iranians are asking precisions about lifting of the sanctions - what it means, how it works and some other elements - and we on the five plus one side, we are asking some precisions. This is reason why we have decided yesterday to take some more time in order to be sure of the possible answers. Mr. Zarif went back to Tehran and our Chinese and Russian friends will come in the week, probably. Myself I am between Vienna, New York and Paris and so on. It is where we are. Therefore, to answer very precisely your question, we wish a good agreement, but this agreement has to be robust. That is very clear. Sometimes people were saying France is particularly hard. Well we are only coherent : we want an agreement but which will be a solid one.
Q - Are you confident, are you optimistic ?
R - I repeat what I said : I wish there could be an agreement, but a very robust one.
Q - Which are the three elements that are being most difficult to obtain from the Iranians ?
R - Does it have to be the three ? Because obviously there has to be some limitation otherwise you cannot establish a difference between civil and nuclear. On the other hand you have to be able to check it. And at the same time, the question of sanctions and snap back has to be sorted out. Everything is important. There are a great many other points but I am insisting on these.
Q - Will the Middle East initiative have to take a backseat because of the Iran talks ?
R - No, they are two different separate questions.
Q - To follow up on the Iran talks, there are reports that there is an agreement on the (inaudible) thing of lifting of sanctions but signing will be delayed until Congress approves. Can you confirm that ? Do you think that Zarif going back to Tehran is a good sign or a worrying sign ?
R - Well, I do not read in the signs and we have a principle which is written : it is that nothing is agreed until the moment everything is agreed.
Q - There is a lot of talk about the fact there might be backtracking about what was agreed in Lausanne.
R - I do not get into these details. I am working on hopefully a solution but which has to be a robust.
Q - Has Iran definitely agreed on the fact that sanctions are...
R - I said that our principle is that, as far is as everything is not concluded, nothing is concluded.
Q - In terms of the snapback, you were talking about the difficulties of getting Iran to go along with it. Are you confident that Russia and China would be willing to allow the suspension of their use of veto in order to allow these sanctions, if they automatically snap back.
R - We have a very good cooperation with Chinese and Russians.
Q - Minister, just back to Iran, you mentioned possible military dimension issues. People inside the negotiations are saying that the agreement is (inaudible) some sort of a symbolic progress by Iran.
R - I don’t know who this somebody in the negotiation is but I am one of the negotiators.
Q - Can you clarify any of this for us ?
R - Well in my opinion it is very clarified yes.
Q - Many in the business and the financial world are already preparing for how they could enter into the market and the economy once the sanctions are relieved. But the existence of a snapback mechanism, being automatic, raises concern for businesses on how much risk there would be. And considering how much history France has had with French companies and the experiences that happened before, what kind of safeguards or guarantees does France could be preparing against ?
R - This is an issue which is discussed.
Q - To follow up on Iran. What do you need from the Security Council to make sure that a snapback resolution is also robust ? And, if you don’t get an agreement, in the end, would that be a bad thing in your view ?
R - Sure, a good agreement is preferable. It’s an obvious thing. Now, on the different (inaudible) I will not elaborate because it would not be fair because we are still discussing.