by Aisha Khan

Q: COP21 was hailed by the international community as a huge success. How do you assess the role of France in hosting COP21? Are there any landmark achievements or significant developments during the French Presidency that you would like to share?

A: The Paris Agreement has been described as historic. And it is, undeniably, for it is the first of its kind and it brought together all the countries of the world.
Indeed, and with all modesty, I can say the French government played a key role and put all its weight to achieve this success. France’s diplomatic efforts before and during the COP21 together with Peru and the United Nations are recognized.

But this great success was also achieved thanks to each and every country which participated at the highest level, among them Pakistan, with the presence of the Prime Minister, Mr. Nawaz Sharif.

A number of important initiatives were launched in December in Paris. Seventy coalitions, 10,000 stakeholders involved in the Lima-Paris Action Agenda; the International Solar Alliance, the plan to develop renewable energy in Africa, the innovation mission for green technologies, the high-level coalition to set a carbon price.

This must be our main commitment today: to set a carbon price to reorient investment and change both businesses’ and consumers’ choices.

Q: Do you think COP21 has set new standards and expectations for future events?

A: I think it did, especially by washing away the discouragement which happened after Copenhagen. In November 2016, Marrakech will succeed Paris as the host city of the UN Climate Conference.
If Lima in 2014 was "the COP of negotiations," and Paris 2015 "the COP of decisions", then Marrakech 2016 will be "the COP for action", in the words of Hakima El Haite, Moroccan Minister Delegate for the Environment.

Q: Do you think the global community is addressing the challenges of climate change with the required urgency or is it still slow to recognise the full impact of this phenomena?

A: The awareness is now more and more present. But we must move quickly, even more quickly because time is running out. The last ten months have been the hottest in the past 100 years.
There have been disasters again everywhere; terrible droughts in Pakistan; devastating cyclones in the Pacific; Lake Chad in Africa is at risk of disappearing; there are islands that have been submerged.  This year, 20 million hectares of forest in South-East Asia, Latin America and Africa went up in smoke.

France calls for every effort to be made to implement the Paris agreement, for there is no time to lose: it will only enter into force if it is ratified by 55% of countries accounting for 55% of greenhouse gas emissions. So once again we’re launching an appeal to every country, among them Pakistan, to ratify the Paris Agreement as quickly as possible.

Q: The INDCs submitted by countries still fall short of the emission reduction that is needed to contain the temperature below 2 degrees celsius. How should one interpret this?

A: In terms of climate action, we must set ourselves ambitious targets, even if they may seem hard to achieve at the time. When we decided collectively at COP20 in Lima in December 2014 to call on countries to present “national contributions” for acting against global warming, few people were counting on success. But 186 out of 195 countries presented theirs, which covers more than 96% of greenhouse gas emissions. Even if we are still falling short of the 2°C, it is a real step forward.

An initial collective assessment of states’ commitments will actually be made in 2018. States will evaluate their progress, with a view to preparing or updating national contributions.

This will provide the opportunity for a new stage in strengthening our collective ambition. In this context, we also call Pakistan to submit a new ambitious and detailed national contribution.

Through the agreement, the IPCC scientists are also given a mandate to prepare a report by 2018 on how to achieve the more ambitious 1.5ºC target. This is very important because for many countries, particularly island states and the Least Developed Countries, warming of 2ºC would in itself have dramatic consequences.

Q: Do you think that Annex A countries need to do more both in terms of mitigation at home and support for adaptation to vulnerable countries?

A: The agreement clearly states that developed countries have a special responsibility to provide financial and technological support to developing countries. It encourages other states, for example the major emerging countries, to make voluntary contributions as well.
The text focuses heavily on adaptation to the effects of climate disruption. In the global fight against climate disruption, finance is key to confidence. It was decided that developed countries would mobilise after 2020 to help developing countries, going even further than the annual $100 billion. The text provides for a new financial target to be set no later than 2025.

Q: How much importance is attached to social, ecological and democratic equity at the COP negotiations by participating countries?

A: From the outset of this COP21, France gained trust by applying one method: listening, transparency, ambition for the agreement and a spirit of compromise.

It was essential for each country, but also for each stakeholder, cities, businesses, local partners, civil society, to feel not only heard but listened to and understood.

Poverty reduction, sustainable development and economic growth can and must be achieved together. But ensuring equitable access to sustainable development for all will require enhanced means of implementation. That’s why so much emphasis was put on financial and technological solidarity.

Q: Do you think that INDCs, without legally binding commitments, will produce results?

A: In Paris we adopted a joint, transparent system for monitoring states’ commitments; we now have to define the specific rules for this – who is going to be in charge of it, how frequently will it be done. I believe the review of national commitments every five years is an essential clause, which makes each country responsible. I am optimistic seeing today’s collective will.

Q: Is climate justice a valid demand?

A: In Manila last year, before COP21, our President called together with Philippines for climate solidarity and justice. Climate justice is indeed a valid demand, and it is now included in the Paris Agreement. The agreement also recognizes the permanent, pre-eminent need for cooperation on loss and damage.

Q: What steps has France taken to reduce its carbon footprint and move towards a green economy?

A: France has committed to speed up the energy transition and set an example in the development of renewable energy in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and strengthen France’s security of supply. It also represents an industrial opportunity for French provinces and regions.

The Energy Transition for Green Growth Act passed last year by the French Parliament sets an ambitious goal of raising the share of renewable energy in total energy consumption to 32% in 2030.

By that date, renewable energy should account for 40% of electricity production, 38% of final heat consumption, 15% of final fuel consumption and 10% of gas consumption.

These targets are even more ambitious for Overseas France, whose goal set by the energy transition act is to reach 50% of renewable energy by 2030.
In 2015, renewable energy production increased by more than 23% (not including hydroelectricity), with 1,000 MW of new wind capacity and 900 MW of new solar capacity. According to the industry, 2,000 jobs were created in 2014 in the wind-energy sector. The latest call for tender for photovoltaic projects is going to generate nearly €1 billion of investment and put 5,000 people to work on bringing the chosen facilities into service.

Let me also here mention the important role of the European Union. For decades, the EU and its Members States have been on the forefront to fight climate change: we committed together in our common INDC to ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gases emissions, and I am very pleased to say that we are on the right track to achieve them.

At the global scale, France has announced it will increase its annual climate financing from €3 billion to €5 billion by 2020. Similarly, we’ll be increasing our contribution to the fight against desertification in order to finance adaptation, and we’re using donations, not just loans.

Q: Does civil society in France play an active role in influencing climate change policy and planning?

A: Yes, civil society plays a major role in influencing French climate change policy, by expressing needs, proposing solutions and lobbying for change at all levels- politicians, administrations, media, business, education institutions.

A good example is the fact that the Ambassador for COP21, Laurence Tubiana, who played a tremendous role, was herself previously heading a think tank specialized on Environment, IDDRI.

Q: You played a very active role during the French Presidency to bring climate change issues to center stage in Pakistan. You were also instrumental in mobilising civil society and creating a platform for meaningful discourse between policy makers, civil society organizations scientists, researches, academia and experts to formulate an Agenda of Solutions. What was your motivation for this approach and how do you rate the outcome of your efforts?

A: I have to say I was neither an expert, nor a militant, in the field of environment before COP21. But working for two years on climate change in Pakistan, I myself became more aware and convinced, and wanted to share this very important concern in the country where I’m residing.

The whole idea, even “philosophy”, of COP21 was to commit and mobilise all stakeholders, not only states but also local governments, businesses, private sector, civil society and non-governmental organizations, academia, and citizens, to play their full role in tackling climate change.

The Lahore Forum, “Pakistan sey Paris”, organised in October 2015 was born from this idea. Breaking the silos and bringing every stakeholder in Pakistan to work together in the fight against climate disruption.

Here, I want to pay a special tribute to the dynamic Pakistani civil society which made a tremendous effort in raising awareness and mobilising on the subject before, during and after COP21.

The outcomes in this sense are good as a “Pakistan climate coalition” emerged with the set-up of a platform of civil society organizations.

We need to continue to mobilise jointly, before and after the COP22. I am happy in this sense that a second Climate Forum will be organized in Islamabad on 31st October, as a follow up to the first edition and to prepare for COP22.

Q: How would you describe your interaction with policy makers and civil society in the context of climate change in Pakistan? Are there any specific outcomes or highlights that you would like to share?

A: These past two years have seen an extraordinary commitment by all stakeholders in Pakistan. As Ambassador of the country which held the presidency of the COP, I really enjoyed working with passionate and committed individuals on such an important cause, often forgotten in a country that is one of the most vulnerable to climate change.

The set-up of a civil society platform, the bilateral scientific cooperation, especially with the Pakistan Meteorological Department, the awareness campaigns, targeting the youth and journalists, will remain outcomes bearing fruits for the future, not ending in November.

Here, I want to thank the authorities, and in particular the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Disaster Management Authority, and, of course, the Ministry of Climate Change, for their constant support and cooperation. I here thank personally the Ministers for Climate Change, Mr. Mushahidullah Khan and Mr. Zahid Hamid, whom I met so often and who always had their doors open and did not count their time. This cooperation has been friendly and frank all along.

Q: French Presidency of COP21 will end in November this year. Will you remain engaged with stakeholders with the same zeal and vigour as you and your staff at the embassy displayed during the lead up to COP21 and thereafter?

A: France’s work is far from over, even if as you mention the COP Presidency will end by November. The action and implementation phase has started and we will continue to honour our commitments and work on climate change.

In Pakistan, the French Aid Agency, the Agence française de développement – AFD-, whose mandate exclusively focuses on green growth, is scaling up all operations related to climate change: it is already actively supporting the development of renewable energies – hydroelectricity in the Northern areas and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, solar energy in Punjab, windmills in Sindh- and energy efficiency all over the country.

To conclude, I want to express my best wishes for COP22 and our Moroccan friends. The experience of working to combat climate change in Pakistan has been amazing and I can assure you France will remain committed in this field in the future.

H.E. Martine Dorance,
Ambassador of France to Pakistan shares her thoughts on the COP meetings and Pakistan’s
climate change policies