The Final Day of the Beginning
12 December 11.40. The suspense is rising. I am sitting in the overflow room – one of the big plenary rooms where we can watch the action of the Paris Committee on screen. The meeting is scheduled for 11.30 but we do not know if there will ‘just’ be the announcement of the new and hopefully final text, or whether the Parties will be asked to approve it here, on the spot. Seeing US foreign minister Kerry in the room makes us expect the latter. Perhaps. Someone told me President Hollande was going to come. Rumours in your ears and on twitter. Let’s see what actually happens. Podium still empty but the room is filled up. Applauds as the minister of the high ambition coalition came in – including Brazil who reportedly joined in the last couple of days. And my neighbour just shows me the news item that Australia has also joined the coallition. Interesting. Later I see tweets Japan has joined. There is something about positive social pressure also in international cooperation.
It turns out to be a session of high emotions and speeches of unusual poignancy. COP President Fabius – announces the text will be available shortly after the session and calls on the delegates to consider the historic importance of approving it. Some extracts from my not perfect notes: “Today it is a moment of truth. Before you examine the text and before you, I hope, will approve it. This agreement is necessary for the entire world…it will enable islands to protect themselves…expedite financial means for durable development, serve food security, combat poverty, essential rights, and ultimately peace… We are citizens of the world”.
Following are speakers such as President Hollande, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and Ms. Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC. You can listen yourselves at http://unfccc6.meta-fusion.com/cop21/events/2015-12-12-11-30-comite-de-paris-6th-meeting
If there has ever been public moral pressure put on countries it was now. I wondered how after those speeches on the importance of this moment, of this Agreement for the world, any country could voice its opposition. And no one did. After about 7 hours where there had been a break for delegates to read the new text now translated to UN’s six official languages, and some delay where a few delegations seemingly wanted assurances on some things, the plenary reconvened. After reports of the committee appointed to check the legal language of the text had given its report, and the UNFCCC’s own legal expert had read a list of technical errors in the text that will be corrected in a revised text, President Fabius closed the Paris Committee, opened the COP and asked for adoption of the Agreement saw no objections and the gavel went down. Cheering, cheering, delegates standing applauding, simply celebration. It would not stop. After so many years of work for this by so many the relief was immense.
There was a spirit of common vision, of common volition in that room. Speaker after speaker celebrated this as a victory of multilateralism and a result of countries’ willingness to look beyond only their own interest toward that of humanity and the planet. Speaker after speaker credited the final success to the inclusive and transparent leadership of the COP President Laurent Fabius. One of the small island states said they had never before felt that they were heard in this way in the negotiations. The representative of another island exclaimed that he could go home with pride and face his country’s youth who had made 1.5 degrees as a goal their mantra. Of course the work has only started but this was perhaps the end of the beginning as a Swedish newspaper commentator put it.
I cannot take any credit whatsoever for this new historic step in global climate governance. Yet I witnessed first-hand the failure six years ago in Copenhagen and now feel honoured to have seen its birth and to be able to say to my children that I was there, in the room, on 12 December in Paris.