26 October 2015

#COP21Series: My Interview with His Excellency Stephane Gompertz

His Excellency Stéphane Gompertz inspecting a guard of honour

My first guest on #COP21SERIES is His Excellency Ambassador Stéphane Gompertz. An accomplished diplomat, a Climate veteran and an astute negotiator who has seen it all. He has attended 10 out of 21 COPs. He joins me from Paris France as he shares his experience with Climate mobilization and negotiations. He has just finished final Bonn climate change negotiations and he assures me how the France-the COP Presidency will deliver a successful and historic 21st Century climate deal.

Through the interview, he gives promising revelations that gives us hope that war on Climate change is not yet lost. His trips across Africa and Middle East speak of a man who wants the world leaders to act on Climate change with utmost swiftness before everything gets out of hand. I believe you will find this interview very interesting.

Henry: Good Evening your Excellency. It’s my pleasure to have you on #COP21Series.To start with, how has been your Diplomatic career especially your role in International Climate change negotiations.

Stéphane: I served in many diplomatic positions. I worked as French Ambassador of France to the Republic of Ethiopia and Austria. I was also Director for African Affairs at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But, most Importantly French Climate Change Ambassador for Africa and Middle East.

Henry: How has been your experience in your work as a French Envoy for Climate Change in Africa and Middle East?

Stéphane: I must admit the experience has been illuminating and informative in many ways. I have been to Uganda, Rwanda, Ghana, Saudi Arabia and I will be travelling to Egypt, Qatar and Kuwait next week. In Ghana, I met His Excellency President John Dramani Mahama as well as Minister of Environment, sciences, technology and Innovation Hon Mahama Mayanga. Across the continent I have engaged civil society, members of Parliament, representatives of think tanks, and academia and business community in a bid to encourage them to negotiate better deal at COP 21 in Paris, which is of course in our best interest as a COP Presidency to deliver a deal that will save the Planet. I am glad to inform you that your Country Uganda has already submitted its Intended National determined Contributions (INDCs) just a few couple of days which is very positive.

Henry: What concrete steps or achievements should world citizens expect from COP 21? And how will these steps translate into low carbon path ways and greener economies?

Stéphane: Yes, the main aim of COP 21 is to reach an agreement which will replace Kyoto Protocol with two objectives. One is mitigation which means limiting and diminishing the greenhouse gas emissions so that we could limit expected rise in global temperatures to 2oc and ideally less than which is 1.5c. And the second objective is Adaptation which means helping people or groups of people-villages, towns, cities and communities to live or cope up with the consequences of climate change. I am very sure we shall succeed in reaching on an agreement that will respond to climate change consequences that are being felt across the world.

Henry: How did the concept of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions come about and what is the idea behind it?

Stéphane: INDCs are locally developed initiatives that all countries have developed and submitted as part of their responsibility to collectively stop global warming and Climate change. They do vary from country to country. Countries can commit themselves to invest in renewable energy for instance. They can also commit themselves to improve building techniques. They can commit themselves to improving agricultural techniques so that farmers can access new seeds which will be more resistant. They can also develop early warning systems which has to do with adaptation.

Henry: Don’t you think the world will be left with large “stranded assets” i.e. coal, gas and oil reserves that are on balance sheets now but will need to be left in the ground untapped.

Stéphane: Well, it’s not a black and white process. It will be gradual process and obviously the agreement shall not do away with the use of oil and even coal in the world economy. The idea is that it will go down gradually. But in the meantime, Oil producing countries’ interests have been to be taken into account. However, they all see it is also their interest to invest in renewable energy. You know I visited Saudi Arabia and greater United Arab Emirates. I saw huge initiatives and investment projects in solar energy. So I see no contradiction in that because this will be a gradual process that will help these countries to transition to greener economies.

Henry: There is a belief within the Non-Renewable Energy Industry that fossil fuels will continue to dominate the energy supply until 2050 and beyond, and consequently the 2oc target, is simply not possible. Do you feel you are getting enough backing from the energy sector?

Stéphane: Yes very much so. For several reasons. It is the interest of everybody including oil companies not to burn it only but to use or keep oil, gas and other fossil fuels for other uses like manufacturing chemicals or making medicines for instance. Thirdly, more and more industries that are linked to oil also invest in new renewable energy like solar or wind energy because they know the price of solar energy is going down. For example the French giant total has invested heavily in solar energy and many others. This shows that oil companies also recognize the trend. There is a trend towards greener energy. They want to participate and benefit from it.

Henry: The COP 21 Agreement is supposed to be legally binding. What does that mean exactly? Who would do the binding?

Stéphane: I am very confident that this agreement will be very well respected and it’s every country’s responsibility to enforce it domestically. For instance the Montreal Protocol which aimed to phase-down production and consumption of hydro fluorocarbons (HFCs) that deplete the Ozone Layer has been widely accepted and enforced. There is going to be tremendous pressure. We think that the overall pressure both domestically and internationally will be significant for countries to understand it will be in their best interest to respect these commitments.

Henry: The agreement expected to be made in Paris will only take effect in 2020.Isn’t there a danger that will be a rush to produce as much fossil fuels as possible before the agreement takes effects.

Stéphane: No, because the decisions which are linked to the agreement will also contain commitments which will be take effect from this period up to 2020.In UN language we call it work stream 2.Work stream 1 is the agreement itself. If you look at INDCs you will see that governments commit themselves to taking measures immediately. They will not wait up to 2020.So, clearly such a rush will not take place. The new trend towards greener economies has begun and it will not stop.

Henry: Your Excellency. It has been my pleasure engaging you.

Stéphane: Well, it has been pleasure to talk to you. Iam afraid we have to stop here because I have to pick somebody at the station. But if you need more information, don’t hesitate to contact me again.


The #COP21Series is conducted by Henry Otafiire, Team leader Response to African Youth Dynamics (RAYD)

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