On December 12th 2015, the international community adopted the Paris Agreement after long-lasting negotiations at the 21st Climate Conference of the United Nations (COP21). The success of this event and the adoption of the first binding agreement since the Kyoto Protocol had been made possible by the great implication of French diplomacy. Two years later, President Macron organized the One Planet Summit in Paris, to commemorate the international agreement and make governments, the private sector, development banks and philanthropies commit to financing the fight against Climate Change.
John Kerry, former Secretary of States in the US, vehemently criticized Donald Trump for withdrawing from the Paris Agreement.
From a diplomatic point of view, the One Planet Summit was a real success and placed France as a catalyst on climate finance. More than 50 heads of States attended the afternoon session, as well as international leaders and heads of private companies. For instance Theresa May, Enrique Pena Nieto, the King of Morocco Muhammad VI, Ban Ki-Moon and Antonio Guterres, or private persons like Mickael Bloomberg, Bill Gates, John Kerry, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sean Penn and Marion Cotillard were present. This short list apparently shows a global involvement of mediatic and powerful actors.
But the goal of the day was not (only) to gather celebrities and gain media coverage. The Summit was the occasion for each and all to make announcements on their respective will and actions to decarbonize finance, and give (financial) support to green projects. Some initiatives have been welcomed with good grace, and are probably of high interest, such as the World Bank committing not to finance oil and gas exploitation after 2019, which was largely applauded. Another major development bank, the Agence Française de Developpement, announced its ambition to become the first development agency to be 100% compatible with the Paris Agreement, meaning each project will be evaluated with climate indicators. The private sector also made important contributions, like Axa group committed not to invest anymore in companies with more than 30% of hydrocarbon revenues. On the public side, institutional frameworks have been launched, but the announcements were mainly related to carbon price and markets, with two new carbon markets announced in China and North America. To close the Summit, Emmanuel Macron summarized under twelve items the commitments made, and promised they would be followed and evaluated.
The French President Emmanuel Macron promised to launch a website where all announcements will be reported.
The commitments and debates have focused mainly on carbon markets and energetic transition and how to develop, finance renewable energy especially solar energy. There was also an appeal from many speakers about carbon market and how this market is essential to reduce carbon emission..
All in all, the Summit may have opened more questions than solved financial gaps in the fight against Climate Change. Who will be responsible to measure and evaluate the realization of the commitments? How will NGOs and civil society have access to reliable data? And what exactly is green finance? No clear definition has been made on what “green” projects mean. Financing the creation of dams for instance may fall under a green bond because hydroelectric energy is indeed renewable, while big dams often drown forests or other ecosystems, releasing carbon that was imprisoned, and threatening local biodiversity and even indigenous communities.
More than 80 different State’s officials were present to listen, and not to give speeches, which is “unusual for politicians” as President Macron said.
Finally, the lack of global comprehension of climate-related issues may be the principal problem of the One Planet Summit. The event had a specific, and narrow, objective, overlooking many important interactions with biodiversity or social impacts. No mention was made of preserving or restoring ecosystems, while functional ecosystems help sequestering CO2 and are crucial for livelihoods. Biodiversity at large was not a subject, neither as a victim of Climate Change, nor as part of the solution. The ocean, though essential for biodiversity, livelihoods and climate regulation (see the Ocean & Climate Platform advocacy), was mentioned only through the prism of shipping (with 34 countries committed to reduce shipping emissions).
This lack of comprehensiveness is one of the reasons One Planet summits, appealed to be replicated each year, should not prevail politically or mediatically on Climate COPs. During COPs, interactions between Climate Change and social, economic and biodiversity issues are discussed and taken into account. The unilateral will shown by France to organize this summit proves an ambition to accelerate the transition, but the real (multilateral) legitimacy will continue to lie on States gathering under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The One Planet Summit took place at “La Seine Musicale”, a new concert hall conceived as a “boat on the river”, which makes it an ironic setting for the “No Ocean Summit”.
Authors: Claire Bertin & Julien Voyé