What do you expect from COP28?
Rémy Rioux : This is a mid-term step, before the 2025 COP for the 10 years of the Paris Agreement. We are going to make the first global assessment, which is insufficient, and hope for progress of course. But I doubt that this conference marks a breaking point.
So these great summits are not useful?
R. R. : The COPs are important moments. This is where the dialogue begins between ecological ambition and the finance to achieve it. I was one of the negotiators of the Paris Agreement in 2015, I can attest to the progress made since then. Commitments have been made, particularly within the European Union with our “green pact”, under the leadership of President Macron, to reduce our emissions by 55% in 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality in 2050. Recently, China and the United States knew how to put their strategic rivalry on hold for the climate. China is investing massively in renewable energies and is expected to reach peak CO2 emissions. But its economy is slowing down, at a time when it still needs to accelerate.
The commitment made in 2009 by the countries of the North to mobilize 100 billion dollars per year, to help the South in the face of global warming, would have been achieved only in 2022…
R. R. : This delay is very regrettable. I would like to point out that France has kept its commitment, and even beyond: since 2015, 35 billion euros have been invested by the AFD in climate projects around the world, including 7.6 in 2022. And according to the OECD, we “probably” reached $100 billion last year. Finally, financing the ecological transition is not limited to this sum. Public investment in the world is 2,500 billion per year. The 530 public development banks united in the Finance in Common (FiCS) movement play a major role in decarbonizing the financial system as a whole.
This delay hampered dialogue between North and South…
R. R. : Yes. This delay has led the countries of the South to debate the question of “loss and damage”: according to them, and not without reason, the rich countries are historically responsible for climate change and they must financially compensate for certain inevitable damage, by helping in particular to cope with extreme climatic phenomena. This was the main subject of the last COP in Egypt and the implementation of a new fund in Dubai should strengthen confidence. But, if we continue like this, we will end up talking only about adaptation and historical responsibilities for the climate drama. We urgently need to remobilize to reduce emissions and mitigate global warming. Because the less we mitigate, the more difficult and costly adaptation will be. We need to act on both sides.
Should China and oil-producing countries be called upon more to finance the fight against global warming?
R. R. : In the Paris Agreement we agreed to review by 2025 the amount of financial solidarity and the base of contributors. The countries of the North, and especially the United States, must now keep their commitments and take their fair share. But the major emerging countries, whose greenhouse gas emissions are increasing rapidly, must also finance solidarity against global warming. And finally we must look for new innovative sources of financing.
The countries of the South want to exploit their underground deposits, as we have done. How can we convince them to commit to the transition?
R. R. : It is wrong to say that Africa does not want to fight climate change. Its States simply tell us: “Be consistent and keep your commitments with the 100 billion to support our transition. » In South Africa, the continent’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, the government has decided, with France and the other countries of the Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP), to move away from coal. This is a major and delicate turning point.
For what ?
R. R. : South Africans experience up to twelve hours of load shedding per day. They also face, as in all countries, major political and social difficulties. Let us not forget that the definitive closure of mines in France in 1994 cost us dearly. We had to restructure entire territories to manage the environmental and social consequences of this decision. AFD is working on this subject with the South African government. After funding with the Germans in 2022, we are planning a second for 2024 which will focus on social justice, crucial for a successful ecological transition. We also work there in Vietnam, Indonesia, Senegal and even Colombia.
Isn’t the task easier for the countries of the South which can adapt their development, unlike the North which must initiate a radical change of model?
R. R. : In the North, we have existing infrastructures and we must transform them. In the South, in the take-off phase, it is a question of financing new investments, which must be positive for the climate. It’s hard to say which situation is simpler. For too long we have looked at the world solely from the dimension of economic and social development (per capita wealth, health, education), with developed and developing countries. The Paris COP and the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015 are a revolution: we now look at the world in two dimensions by adding the rate of CO2 per capita, our ecological footprint, to this single human development index. For the moment, no State has managed to develop while stopping destroying the planet. Europe and Latin America are the regions that come closest. One of the major challenges is that the two giants, China and India, are rapidly changing their trajectory. The future of the world is largely being played out in Asia.