COP23 - Uniting for Climate Action: "Unprecedented"

published on 01 November 2017
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COP23, photo
3 questions to... Damien Navizet, Head of AFD’s Climate Change Division

The Paris COP21 and its little sisters demonstrate the unprecedented commitment of the international community to the fight against climate change. This combat includes international summits with titles which sometimes have complex content. With Damien Navizet, a climate change specialist at AFD, we will give you a clear explanation of the issues related to these famous conferences, the next of which will be held in Germany from 6 to 17 November. Here we go!

AFD, Damien Navizet, portrait
Where do we stand in terms of the large-scale mobilization of every country in the world for the climate?

Damien Navizet: Since 1992, the “COP”, these major conferences organized by the UN, have been mobilizing every country in the world for the fight against climate change. During COP21 in 2015, all countries adopted the Paris Climate Agreement. Today, 167 countries out of 195 have ratified this agreement, meaning they have integrated it into their legislation.

This is unprecedented, as it is the first ever universal agreement on the climate. For example, it plans to hold global warming to below 2 degrees and even to “pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees”. The agreement also plans to strengthen adaptation to the impacts of climate change and to redirect financial investments for a sustainable climatic future.

In the same spirit, the Paris Agreement actually came into force less than a year after its adoption, just before COP22 in Marrakech in November 2016. By way of comparison, the Kyoto Protocol adopted in 1997 only came into force 8 years later… Now, the Paris Agreement says what needs to be done, but not how we are going to do it. This is the purpose of COP 22 and 23: determine the arrangements.

Every country in the world has made concrete commitments for the climate. This is a first!

In addition to the Paris Agreement, COP21 introduced the principle of national contributions. This means that every country in the world, whether industrialized or developing, has made concrete commitments for the climate. This is also a first! Furthermore, their implementation has started in the field where AFD is actively involved with its partners.

Another innovation which we saw at COP21: it was the first COP to give center stage to actors other than just governments. Civil society, companies, banks: they too now have their say in the fight against climate change. And it is a sustainable movement: during COP22, which was held in Morocco in late 2016, the action of all for the climate was the main theme of the conference, with a focus on Africa. This widespread awareness of the climate emergency needs to be combined with unprecedented financing and investments.

There is a risk that islands and States will purely and simply disappear. “Climate displaced persons” are set to become a reality.
What will be the purpose of COP23, organized in Bonn in Germany from 6 to 17 November? 

D.N.: COP23 will serve to continue to define the specific rules of the Paris Agreement, but it will also be an opportunity to give center stage to the issue of the islands threatened by climate change. In this respect, it is a highly symbolic COP, which will be chaired by the Republic of Fiji. Beyond this symbol, there is a real emergency: there is a risk that islands and States will purely and simply disappear in the coming decades, due to the rising level of oceans.

“Climate displaced persons” are also set to become a reality, in areas where rising water levels or climate conditions will force them to leave their island. Because the rising sea level is not the only danger for these vulnerable lands: they are being increasingly threatened by the growing number of extreme climate events, such as violent hurricanes, without mentioning the lack of drinking water.

AFD, which is very active in the French overseas territories, is in a position to help these threatened islands, based on a rationale of regional cooperation. For example, we work a lot on sustainable energy self-sufficiency, with the promotion of sustainable energies, such as wind or geothermal energy. We also base our aid on the principle of adaptation, or on how to adapt infrastructure in order to be as ready as possible to cope with natural disasters. This can mean planning more resistant constructions (bridges, roads, buildings...), built in areas that are less exposed, or designing infrastructure that is easier and less costly to rebuild in the event of a disaster.

Radically changing our practices, this is also what the fight against climate change is all about.

More generally, what role does AFD play in the fight against climate change?

D.N.: A leading role! AFD, which implements a large proportion of the French Government’s commitments for international cooperation on the climate, is increasing its climate finance from EUR 3bn in 2015 to EUR 5bn by 2020. France has also paid USD 1bn into the Green Climate Fund, which has been designed to assist the most vulnerable countries with their climate projects.

Last year, AFD committed some EUR 3.6bn of climate-related financing for 83 different projects. This is 22% more than in 2015 and climate-related investments account for half of AFD’s activity in developing countries. We are particularly active in Africa, with EUR 3bn of investments planned to develop renewable energies between 2016 and 2020 continentwide.

By 2020, we also want to earmark over EUR 1bn a year for adaptation. With the “Adapt'Action” program, EUR 30m of grants are mobilized for this issue, to help some fifteen African countries and small islands devise adaptation projects (for water, agriculture, health…).

Finally, we are extremely careful about selecting all our projects depending on their impact on the climate. This can go as far as refusing to finance projects that will emit high levels of greenhouse gas emissions for a very long time. For example, in 2012, AFD decided to no longer finance coal-fired power plants. Questioning and radically changing our practices, this is also what the fight against climate change is all about.