A climate summit in Paris to compensate for the lack of European ambition

The One Planet Summit will take place on the Seine Musical at the outskirts of Paris. [Elena Dijour/Shutterstock]

The French summit aimed at regrouping and bolstering climate ambition, two years to the day after the finale of the COP21, is gradually taking shape. EURACTIV France reports.

Organised by France with the World Bank and the UN, the meeting will be held on 12 December at the Seine Musicale, at the gates of Paris. France expects no less than 2,000 people, and about a hundred invitations were issued to heads of state, with the exception of Donald Trump.

“The summit aims to regroup the international community committed to the fight against climate change,” said a spokesperson for the French presidency, who insisted that enthusiasm for the event is running high.

After Syria’s pledge to join the Paris Agreement, announced on 7 November, the United States is the only country not to engage in the fight against global warming. France seems to want to emphasise this isolation, but a US representative will be present nonetheless.

The European Commission will be a “very important partner”, Paris said, even if the EU executive has not engaged in the organisation of the event.

Some eastern member states including Poland, which will organise COP24 in 2018, are currently blocking all four of the bloc’s climate dossiers, such as the carbon market reform and the long-term targets on renewables and CO2.

Rather than 28, a coalition of a few European states or regions could, therefore, announce a joint coalition for climate neutrality. According to Le Monde, the United Kingdom could be part of this coalition.

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“Not a dialogue of climate technocrats”

A few weeks after the COP23, which is currently being held in Bonn, the meeting called the One Planet Summit will not be “a dialogue of climate technocrats”, says the French government. “We want concrete actions.”

France hopes for concrete pledges on climate finance, but also new coalitions between civil society actors, which can in particular respond to the problem of developing countries that fail to access climate finance. An issue identified a long time ago by critics of the Green Climate Fund, who denounce the approach as too complex, especially for small states.

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A showcase for Paris’ green finance sector

The summit will focus on climate finance, which Paris is seeking to push forward as Brexit bites: the city’s stock market and its lobby Paris Europlace will seek to assert the preeminence of France on the subject, despite the collapse of the carbon market Bluenext, which closed in 2014.

Of the four round tables scheduled for 12 December, two will be entirely dedicated to finance: the first will be led by Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s foreign minister, and French Development Agency (AFD) director Rémy Rioux. The second on “greening finance” will be held in Bercy, with Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire and European Commissioner for the Euro and Social Dialogue Valdis Dombrovskis.

Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič will join the third round table on local government with Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, while the last will be hosted by Minister for Ecological Transition Nicolas Hulot.

Little climatic virtue

Twenty events, organised on 11, 12 and 13 December in Paris by Medef (the French business federation), research institutes IDDRI, I4CE, CNES and Novethic (sustainable media) and Paris Europlace (finance lobby) have already been labelled partners of the One Planet Summit. Critics have warned of the risk that it will be hijacked for green-washing.

For France, whose Ecology Minister Nicolas Hulot has given up his goal of reducing the share of nuclear energy by 50% by 2025, and which is already lagging behind on European renewable energy and energy efficiency targets, the summit is seen as a way to redeem its climatic virtue.

Even if fundamentally, the need for mobilisation on climate finance is real: two years after the Paris agreement, and less than three years before its entry into force in 2020, the pledges are nowhere near being met. And the temperature is climbing faster and faster: 2017 has already been the hottest year ever recorded.

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