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28/09/2016

Ségolène Royal backs Laurence Tubiana for top UN climate job

Climate & Environment

Ségolène Royal backs Laurence Tubiana for top UN climate job

In a public U-turn, the French environment minister has backed Laurence Tubiana to be the next executive secretary of the UN’s climate change organisation. EurActiv’s partner Journal de l’Environnement reports.

Ségolène Royal’s press conference yesterday (6 April) after the French Council of Ministers had two purposes: the first was to present a run-down of her actions over the last two years; the second, to reveal her work programme for the year ahead.

But her responses to some of the journalists’ questions came as a surprise.

Questioned on the lack of support shown by Manuel Valls’ government for the candidacy of Laurence Tubiana for the post of Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Royal said, “I will look into whether we can still present her as a candidate, even though the deadline has passed. I think it should still be possible. And if so, I will support her.”

Tubiana is currently the French ambassador for international climate negotiations, and she played a leading role in the organisation of the COP 21 in Paris last December.

Royal had been suspected of intervening at the highest level to block Tubiana’s nomination, which was otherwise enjoyed the broad support of the French government.

A “virtual candidate”

This promise will be welcome news for the French diplomat, who, just hours earlier, had told members of the French parliament’s Foreign Affairs committee that she was disappointed by the lack of support she had received from the government.

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The committee’s president, Elisabeth Guigou, had expressed her “deep and personal regret that France had not proposed Laurence Tubiana as a candidate for a position for which she has unanimous support”. Tubiana has continued to cautiously describe herself as a “virtual candidate”.

Another subject raised in Royal’s conversation with the press was the Multiannual Energy Programme (PPE). Foreseen under the energy transition law, this planning exercise lays out the specific means by which the French government plans to achieve its climate and energy objectives.

The publication of the PPE had originally been planned for last year, but only the chapter relating to renewable energy was made public on 13 November 2015.

Complex nuclear assessment

The part of the plan that is still missing includes the chapter on nuclear power. But this is a highly complex subject, Royal conceded. “Because to keep the share of nuclear energy to the levels fixed under the law, we will have to develop renewable energies,” she said. The government will also have to work with EDF to decide which reactors should be decommissioned.

But there is no question of closing “those reactors that are in working order and have been the recipients of investment,” she said. This could be interpreted as a reference to the Fessenheim power station, which has recently received an injection of Chinese money. Or not, as the minister also hinted that her services would focus their attention on reactors in border regions, where the neighbouring country had expressed concern. Again, this could be interpreted as a reference to Fessenheim, which is close to the German border. Whatever the outcome may be, the PPE would be published “as quickly as possible”, she promised.

Yesterday’s council meeting also saw the presentation of a ruling authorising public authorities to solicit bids for the production and injection into the grid of bio-methane. Royal hopes that this will lead to the launch of 300 such projects and allow France to reach its target of generating six to eight terawatts of energy from bio-methane by 2023.