Professor Jensen, Dakota, and I all attended an observer briefing today by the President of COP21. As per tradition the position of the President is held by a high-ranking official of the host country. In this case Laurent Fabien is the French minister of Foreign Affairs. For these two weeks his duties include chairing the Bureau and COP Plenary, proposing compromises in the Paris Agreement text, and providing political leadership. Each year the President strikes his or her own balance between staying impartial or promoting his or her own agenda. We were interested in this briefing because the procedural fluency of the President can have a large impact on the result of the negotiations.
We were first struck by Fabien’s affable demeanor. He emphasized that we, the audience (consisting of delegates from observer organizations), have a major role as both observers and actors. He spoke directly to the people who asked questions with thoughtfulness while occasionally even inserting jokes. He was also self-deprecating: “I am a student trying to learn quickly.”
The second thing that struck us was Fabien’s deliberateness in setting the stakes high for Paris. “There will not be a better opportunity than now.” He said that COP21 is our last chance to make something big happen with regard to global emissions cuts, and if we can’t get an agreement now, the whole procedure should be under question.
Fabien, along with the previous COP20 President and Peruvian Minister of the Environment Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, fielded questions from multiple observer groups such as environmental NGOs, the trade union, and youth NGOs. Fabien made it clear that personally he is in favor of keeping equity language in the Paris Agreement such as human rights, long term goals, loss and damage, and differentiation. However, he said that he hoped that he would have some influence on these topics, but also that his power was limited and he would mostly remain neutral in his role as President. Fabien was not helpful about the floor questions over transparency and better accessibility to meetings. He merely said that France was following the rules.
What surprised us the most was when Fabien stated that he was committed to having a text of the ADP (aka the Paris Agreement) by this Saturday, the 6th of December. This way there would be a whole week for deliberation and discussion on the text. Fabien hopes that the new text going into week 2 will be shorter and have fewer brackets—meaning less to argue about between parties. He wants to finalize the draft by Wednesday, December 9th, so that there is not the usual chaos that ensues at the final gasps of the negotiation.
The COP21 president sounds hopeful about the international legal agreement in the middle of week 1 of the negotiations. We shall see if the optimism continues and whether climate justice does in fact remain in the text.
That’s all tonight from Le Bourget!