French senator: ‘Do not forget about development’ in climate negotiations

Ronan Dantec is a French senator and environmentalist.

ronan_dantec_creditxhienne_wikipadia.jpg [Xhienne/Wikipedia]

Ronan Dantec is a Europe Ecology – The Greens senator for the Loire-Atlantique department in France and the environment spokesman for United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), the global cities’ network. He is campaigning to merge the international negotiations on climate change and sustainable development. 

Are you surprised by the outcome of the Lima conference?

Not really. We were quite excited, at the beginning of the fortnight, by the agreement struck between China and the United States. Laurent Fabius did warn us that this was not necessarily the be all and end all, and for the first week, we witnessed the usual posturing games.

Even so, were any clear messages sent to the negotiators?

Yes, but mainly to the French government, who is organising the next Conference of the Parties, in Paris in December 2015. Africa has clearly said: do not forget about development. In Durban the African countries committed to signing a universal agreement, but with the proviso that the rich countries support their development. But the only concrete resource we have to achieve this is a Green Climate Fund worth $10 billion (€8 billion) over four years.

These same rich countries have also committed to providing 100 billion dollars per year, from 2020.

True, but at the moment nobody knows how they will do it, and that is what worries the developing countries. The states of the G77 hope to see the principles of “Common but Differentiated Responsibilities” included in the universal agreement.

This principle is in the convention and in the Lima agreement…

Indeed. But the complication is that between 1992, the year the UN Climate Change Convention was first signed, and the present day, several important countries have grown from developing to emerging economies and become large emitters of greenhouse gases. In this time, China has quadrupled its carbon output, becoming the world’s number one emitter. In spite of this, they do not want to be considered on the same level as the most industrialised Western countries that have been emitting large quantities of CO2 for the last two centuries.

One of the main problems is that we are leading two parallel sets of negotiations that should be merged: one on the greenhouse gas emissions of our economies and the other on sustainable development objectives. We should bring these two discussions together, and not confine ourselves to a debate between the Europeans, the Americans and China. If we forget development in the Paris agreement, the Africans will not sign it.

Are these the only reasons for the blockages that occurred in Lima?

No, of course not. There are countries, notably the large oil producers, that do not want any kind of agreement and will make the most of the slightest ambiguity, the smallest disagreement, in order to block the negotiations.

Most commentators focused on the Lima agreement itself, rather than the annexes that make up the skeleton of a future Paris agreement. There are also some proposals in this text that would contribute to an excellent agreement if they were to be used…

The 37 pages of annexes are interesting, but they have not been adopted. They constitute a working base for the year to come. There is a lot of interesting material that could be used, but for now we do not know what the negotiators will keep. Anything is still possible.

One thing that could be done is to recognise the efforts made by subnational authorities: local governments, businesses, etc.

This would be very good, as the French local authorities have had their own climate plans since September 2013. And there is now a real demand from the UN and individual countries for the efforts of non-national organisations to be taken into account. This is all very good, if the countries do not clip our wings, financially. This will all be brought up again at the global conference we are organising in Lyon on 1 and 2 July. 

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