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World Praises France’s Role in Uniting World for Climate Deal

How French foreign minister Laurent Fabius united the world for Paris climate deal

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French foreign minister and President of the COP21 Laurent Fabius (center) (Photo: AP)

Just a month after the Paris attacks, France has surmounted that atrocity to help achieve a seemingly unachievable triumph: uniting the world to seal a global climate pact.

The Paris climate agreement, adopted on Saturday, was the culmination of more than a year of intense diplomatic efforts by France. Delegates and foreign dignitaries cheered Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, the host of the two-week talks, and gave him a standing ovation.

“It’s rare in life to be able to move things forward at the planet level,” Fabius said, visibly moved after coming out of the plenary room.

France is seen as the inventor of the concept of modern diplomacy, and this conference proved that the country is still a master of the art. Foreign officials highlighted Fabius’ role in the success of the talks, heaping praise on him and France, which has a smaller diplomatic corps than the U.S. and China.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, second right, talks with unidentified people at the final conference at the COP21 (Photo: AP)
US Secretary of State John Kerry, second right, talks with unidentified people at the final conference at the COP21 (Photo: AP)
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“You have done a superb job as everybody has said,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Fabius on Saturday, expressing the Obama administration’s “deepest gratitude to France.”

EU climate chief Arias Canete said “France has united the world. This deal embodies the strength of the French nation.” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon praised Fabius’ “leadership.”

Maldives Foreign Minister Thoriq Ibrahim, who chairs the Alliance of Small Island States, said the French made several smart moves, including having world leaders come in at the beginning of the talks — not at the end like in Copenhagen.

The 2009 conference in Denmark, which failed to deliver a climate deal, was on the minds of all negotiators as the worst case scenario.

“From the very beginning the French were conscious of the Copenhagen failure,” Ibrahim said.

(From left) PM Narendra Modi, French President Francis Hollande, and Microsoft founder Bill Gates listen to US President Barack Obama before the Mission Innovation: Accelerating the Clean Energy Revolution? meeting at the COP2, United Nations Climate Change Conference, in Paris, Monday. (Photo: AP)
(From left) PM Narendra Modi, French President Francis Hollande, and Microsoft founder Bill Gates listen to US President Barack Obama before the Mission Innovation: Accelerating the Clean Energy Revolution? meeting at the COP2, United Nations Climate Change Conference, in Paris, Monday. (Photo: AP)

In a unique gathering, 151 heads of state headed to Paris to give a political push on the first day of the conference — just over two weeks after attacks claimed by Islamic State killed 130 people in Paris.

For more than a year, France had used its broad network of embassies —the third largest in the world— to work with governments abroad and keep them informed of the evolution of the negotiations.

French President Francois Hollande recalled that when he used to ask “where is Laurent Fabius” in the past year, he was answered: “he’s in the plane because he’s visiting all the countries of the world to build the agreement on climate.”

Hollande himself became committed to a cause he once barely gave importance to — he had almost ignored environmental issues during his electoral campaign four years ago.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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