The Prospects for Paris

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Edward Davey speech on the prospects for a global deal at the UNFCC climate conference in Paris, December 2015.

I’d like to start by expressing my gratitude to Connie for the work she did at the European Commission.

She was fundamental to putting the 2030 Energy Framework in place.

Connie knows just what a challenge it was to bring 28 member states to unanimous agreement on the Framework.

How much more difficult, then, will it be to bring 195 countries to agreement in Paris.

So I want to talk today about two things.

What are the prospects for achieving that deal?

And second - what can we do between now and then to make it happen.

And by ‘we’ I mean, all of you too.

Because success will require a great coalition of the willing from across all parts of global society.

And that includes you in the business community. You the Corporate Leaders Group.

Who, through initiatives like the Green Growth Platform to show what can be done, have already done so much to demonstrate that climate change action is not just economically useful, it is an economic requirement.

So let me turn to the prospects for a deal in Paris.

The prospects for a deal in Paris

You know at one point in Lima, when I was frustrated and the clock was ticking, I was looking around my European counterparts and I realised that I was the longest serving Energy Secretary among them.

Indeed, at over three years, I am the longest serving UK Secretary of State for Energy in over a quarter of a century. Which shows how quick the turnovers have been in the past.

And that got me thinking about how much individuals and personalities matter in these kinds of diplomatic negotiations.

Are they just about the faceless forces of history and the lucky confluence national interests?

Or are just they as much about the coming together of the right people, in the right place, at the right time.

Well, we can certainly claim necessity.

The science on climate change is clear. We’ve got to do a deal.

And the more we see the impacts of the warming world around us, the more we understand the future risks.

We are already some way off where we need to be by 2020, of the most cost effective pathway for keeping climate change to below the 2 degree rise the scientists judge is needed to avoid the most catastrophic effects.

And if we do not reach agreement in Paris the vector of action needed becomes increasingly steep with each passing year;

And the economic cost increasingly expensive.

So are these forces of enlightened self-interest strong enough in themselves to make a deal inevitable?

With regret my answer is no.

Whether we are thinking today about the 70th year since Auschwitz was liberated or the commemoration of the start of the Great War last year which claimed the lives of at least 16 million souls;

We should reflect that the historical record shows many examples of national leaders pursuing narrow interests, playing to domestic galleries, and ignoring wider imperatives and horrific costs.

The stakes are very high.

And that is why I do believe personality matters. It will matter who is sitting round the table in Paris in December.

Who will be willing to take risks? To embrace enlightened self-interest? To move beyond the narrow confines of their domestic politics? To take that leap?

Preparation and personalities

People ask me. Will Paris be another Copenhagen at which we agree to disagree?

And my firm answer is no.

For two reasons: Preparation and Personality

First, preparation.

At Copenhagen the writing was on the wall when pledges only came forward in the last few days before the Conference, with no time for any sensible debate or compromise to happen.

It seems to me that since then, momentum has really shifted.

Over the last few years we have seen national climate change legislation proliferating, carbon pricing mechanisms spreading and new policies and regulations being introduced.

Almost 500 climate laws have been passed in 66 of the world’s largest emitting countries.

Carbon markets have now been put in place in over 36 countries. Not always working as well as they might.

But the world has changed since Copenhagen.

Many of the mechanisms and concepts that implementing a global climate deal will need already exist.

But for me what is most encouraging is what is happening with the so called ‘big four’ - the EU, China, the US and India – who together are responsible for half of global emissions.

And this is where personality has mattered.

In India, the election of Prime Minister Modi has changed the mood, raising the prospect that he can duplicate the effective low carbon policies he implemented in Gujarat across the whole of India – and bring a constructive India to the negotiating table in the lead up to Paris.

In China, President Xi Jinping has been pursuing since he took over his vision of an ecological civilization that embeds climate action in its national planning process.

China is already the world’s largest non-fossil fuel energy producer.

It is one of the world’s leaders on sub-national carbon markets.

And they are preparing to launch a national scheme from 2016 which will be bigger than the EU’s ETS.

In the United States, President Obama is increasingly seeing climate change action as part of his legacy.

And although there remain political obstacles to overcome, but the commitment of the White House to achieve agreement in Paris has never been so strong, of course supported by Secretary Kerry.

Historically the EU has been one of the world’s leading advocates of climate change action.

And with the new 2030 agreement, that remains the case.

The Green Growth Group I set up to build consensus around a low-carbon, pro-growth policy position, now boasts 13 member states representing 75% of Europe’s population, 85% of Europe’s GDP and 60% of the votes in the Council of Ministers.

And we are extremely lucky to be able to draw on the support, expertise and insights of the Prince of Wales’ Corporate Leaders’ Group.

Indeed, the CLG is the backbone underpinning the Green Growth Platform, bringing together nearly 50 business from multiple sectors and from across the EU.

Let me take this opportunity to thank all of you and Sandrine and her team, for all the hard work they have put in over the last 2 years into making the Green Growth Platform viable.

So what does all this mean for Paris in December?

It means we are more prepared than ever before.

And the right people are in the right place at the right time, we hope.

There were some signs of this Lima.

Discussions were difficult, and it looked like a deal was being cooked up in Beijing and Washington, but I genuinely believe things are looking good and not one country wanted to leave Lima without an outcome that took us the next step towards the deal.

So, I judge the prospects of a comprehensive climate change deal to be the best since we first began this journey many decades ago.

But now is definitely not the time to rest

The negotiations are going to get tougher, and tensions are inevitable.

So let me turn to what needs to be done between now and December to increase the chances of success.

Making Paris a success

The timetable is tight.

By April, we expect many countries to have shared their proposed targets for the new deal – Intended Nationally Determined Contributions or INDCs in the jargon.

We’ll see what people come forward with.

By May we will have a draft text of the Paris Treaty.

In September leaders will gather in New York at the UN for high-level discussions on the post-2015 development agenda, and that will look into climate-proofed development.

And then in December, the Paris Conference.

But this will be like the proverbial duck on the water – serenely moving forward but paddling furiously underneath.

We will have to use every international opportunity to maintain ambition and keep up the momentum.

Whether it be the Major Economies Forum meetings in April and July.

The G7 meetings in June.

Or any other international gathering that allows us to raise the issue and exert pressure.

But let me focus in on those INDCs expected by April.

At Lima we agreed that INDCs would be mitigation focussed and represent a progression in ambition for what is currently on offer.

Let me deal with the EU first.

We need to get the EU’s INDC in place by the deadline.

And we should set the INDC gold standard acting as a template and benchmark against which we can judge others.

Second, it has always been the position of the UK that the EU needs to be ready to commit to increasing its GHG offer beyond 40% in the context of a global deal.

The two words ‘at least’ in the October deal were important, challenging though it might be.

So we need to set out the credible options on how we could deliver this, in order to help drive further ambition and momentum through to Paris.

But we have been the first to put some of our cards on the table. And it will be impossible to raise the EU’s level of ambition without seeing ambition from others.

Finally, we shouldn’t wait for a global deal before getting on with implementing the 2030 package in Europe.

That means, in particular, repairing the EU Emissions Trading System through a strengthened Market Stability Reserve.

It also means pushing the Commission to bring forward robust ETS and Effort Sharing legislation to implement the EU’s 40% GHG target for 2030, without delay.

But looking wider at the INDC process, the Lima decision did not set out any formal way of assessing the fairness and ambition of individual INDCs.

And it is highly likely that the aggregate of INDCs will not reflect what is needed globally.

And that is where you and others come in.

The UK can of course do its own analysis, but as a Party in the process we will need to be careful about accusations of pursuing our own interests or playing politics when it comes to pointing fingers.

So we are expecting and indeed encouraging civil society to carry out assessments on INDCs - to make judgements about who is and who is not pulling their weight.

I hope we can build on the green growth message.

But we need your help internationally in other ways too.

We need to work together to unlock breakthrough low carbon technologies particularly for heavy industry;

We need to work together on the financial instruments and integrated energy markets that can smooth the transition to a low-carbon economy;

And we need your help to take the message on green growth that you have helped deliver so effectively within Europe during the 2030 campaign, to a new international audience – explaining what the 2030 agreement means and what can be gained from a low-carbon economy.

We are looking at an intensive year of climate diplomacy and we look to you, the progressive business community, to help us in this effort.

Including the planned establishment of a new Pacific Alliance Green Growth Platform, which will bring together governments, business and experts in that region to collectively explore and pursue a new climate growth model.

One of the most encouraging things in Lima was the Pacific Alliance being built.

This is a great opportunity to export some of what we have developed together in Europe.


So in conclusion ladies and gentlemen.

Will the deal in Paris be perfect? No.

Will we need to ensure that the Treaty includes a mechanism to ratchet up ambition overtime? Yes.

But I am ever more confident that we will emerge from Paris with a comprehensive agreement that all Parties will sign.

And this achievement on its own is not to be underestimated or undervalued.

But we have to drive ambition forward.

We want an agreement that does the job.

Like many who have been looking forward to this moment for decades, I am clear, we must still keep our sights on the prize – meeting that 2 degree target.

The good news I think is that that ambition is shared across the main parties in the UK.

I don’t think you will see backsliding in May, there is consensus.

But whoever does this role next will need help from you our business community, our scientists and engineers, our academics and faith leaders, and our committed, vocal community of environmental NGOs.

But between now and Paris we will need all the efforts of all of you to push us over the line.