There is something about the French. They seem to cling to freedom at all cost; not just freedom for their own people but freedom for all humanity. Perhaps, this tendency was manifestly exhibited during the colonial era when they decided to go the way of Assimilation. Yet, what happened in December 2015 shows that it was rather auspicious that Paris hosted COP 21.
The city had just been hit by terrorist attacks that left 130 people dead and scores of others critically wounded. But it still summoned the will to welcome the world. Its leaders played host to a divided corps of climate negotiators, riding the tide, defusing the tension, and at the end of the day, birthing a new era for the troubled globe.
The terrorist attacks on Paris raised questions about whether the talks would go ahead at all, but the French president, François Hollande, insisted that they must, and in a show of unity, more than 150 heads of state arrived in the French capital for the opening day. The US President Barack Obama hailed the conference as “an act of defiance” in the face of terrorism.
Indeed, it was also an act of defiance against climate change, which was gaining ground against a world that never had a consensus.
At the end of the day, the contrast with the last global attempt to resolve climate change at Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2009 became glaring. During COP 15 in Copenhagen, there was no agreement as the negotiations descended into pandemonium and recriminations, and everybody went home sad. Then, there were serious worries as to whether the world was ever going to band together against climate change.
But Paris produced an agreement hailed as “historic, durable and ambitious”. Developed and developing countries alike are required to limit their emissions to relatively safe levels, of 2C with an aspiration of 1.5C, with regular reviews to ensure these commitments can be increased in line with scientific advice. Finance will be provided to poor nations to help them cut emissions and cope with the effects of extreme weather. Countries affected by climate-related disasters will gain urgent aid.
There is no gainsaying the fact that Africa, and indeed Nigeria, shall benefit from the deliverables of the Paris Agreement, but before we look at the probable green projects, it will be ideal to put the French government’s terror stance in perspective.
Interestingly, regarding France’s relations with Nigeria, there are two sides to the coin: On the one side is the war against terrorism and on the other is the fight against climate change.
Once upon a time, Boko Haram controlled a territory in Nigeria which could easily form the borderlines of a sovereign country. Our soldiers were overwhelmed, our neighbours were not cooperating, and the Western nations did not intervene. That was when France rose to the occasion. It donned a garb of resilience and summoned us for a “war conference”.
In my opinion, the decision that Western country made to lead an Afro-based defiance against violent fundamentalism defined its spirit and charted a path it was to toe many months later – which saved the world!
It is on record that the French president’s intervention in 2014 turned the tide in the battle against the Boko Haram insurgents. President Hollande hosted the regional summit on security in Paris in 2014 which brought together then President Goodluck Jonathan, and his counterparts from Benin, Cameroon, Niger and Chad.
At the end of the summit, the regional powers agreed to “wage war” on Boko Haram. They pledged to share intelligence and co-ordinate action against the terror sect, which defined the later successes gained by the Nigerian Army over the insurgents. A remarkable strategy was the “hot pursuit” action-plan, whereby soldiers from each neighbouring country were at liberty to extend their incursions into the other countries when engaging retreating insurgents.
At the summit, the agreed “global and regional action plan” involved “co-coordinating intelligence, sharing information… border surveillance, a military presence notably around Lake Chad and the capacity to intervene in case of danger”.
It was this “Paris Agreement” that strengthened the Multi-National Joint Task Force against Boko Haram, and ensured the victories recorded in due course. It saved a region… our region.
And, as Providence would have it, in December 2015, another Paris Agreement saved the world. But the French did not stop at hosting the climate negotiations, it is currently ensuring that Africa achieves its green agenda.
A few weeks ago, on Tuesday, September 20, in New York, at the meeting of African heads of state on the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative – in the presence and on the initiative of the selfsame Hollande – Ségolène Royal, French Minister of the Environment and President of COP21, presented the specific renewable energy projects to be embarked on in Africa without delay, in coordination with Salaheddine Mezouar, Foreign Minister of Morocco and future president of COP22.
The French environment minister has so far shown unmatched commitment in helping Nigeria enter the second phase of the Kyoto Protocol with confidence. She has visited the continent 20 times already.
On the basis of her visits to 17 African countries, her discussions with African leaders and analyses by groups of experts, a list of 240 projects accounting for more than 45GW of renewable capacity has already been made public. They are 13 geothermal energy projects: 7GW; 58 hydroelectricity projects: 20GW; 62 solar energy projects: 6GW; 16 wind energy projects: 5GW; 35 projects combining more than one technology: 1GW; and four national strategies (solar and wind energy): 8GW.
In addition, at the meeting at the United Nations headquarters, the COP21 President also reported on the financing of projects decided on since the Paris Climate Conference. In the space of a few months, donors have released €4.5bn, helping to build (capacity for) 5.7GW of renewable energy.
Launched by African heads of state on December 1, 2015 in the presence of the French President, the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative aims to increase the continent’s installed capacity of renewable energy by 10GW by 2020 and 300GW by 2030. During COP21, 10 donors pledged to release $10bn (including €2bn from France) to contribute to the initiative.
To achieve this goal, Ségolène Royal has pledged to facilitate the implementation of the initiative throughout the French COP21 Presidency. The report proposes a review of the energy situation in Africa and sets out 10 recommendations to speed up the deployment of renewable energy on the continent. All the recommendations are as ambitious as they are workable.
Therefore, as the next COP is in Africa (Marrakesh, Morocco), there is no better opportunity for us as a region to build on the gains initiated in France, and by the French environment minister. This is the time to look holistically at the impacts of climate change, especially as it affects security. The drying Lake Chad, for instance, has impact on more than four African countries, and the situation has become a fuel to the recruitment drive of Boko Haram insurgents in the region.
France has helped us change the game, but we must be innovative and steadfast in order to remain on top of our game.
All rights reserved. This material, and other digital content on this website, may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from PUNCH.
The post Why terrorism could not stop Paris Agreement appeared first on Punch Newspapers.