24 april 2015

[4C Note: The author of the following article is the Foreign Minister of France, which will be hosting the Paris climate summit at the end of this year.]

Laurent Fabius: Our Climate Imperatives

By LAURENT FABIUS, The New York Times, APRIL 24, 2015

PARIS — Toward the end of this year, France will host the 21st United Nations climate conference. The aim? To reach a universal agreement that will limit the rise in average global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius, compared to the pre-industrial period, by the end of the century. There is real hope for success, but it is an enormous task.

As the president of the conference, known as COP21, my role will be to facilitate an ambitious compromise between 195 states (196 parties when we include the European Union). In the negotiations, the differences among countries that are at distinct stages of development necessitate differences of approach. Yet strong common interests unite us. One example is the impact of climate change on our shared security.

The climate has always posed threats to security. Climate disruption upsets the full range of economic and social equilibrium — and it therefore threatens countries’ internal security.

In France, for example, historians have shown that disastrous weather in 1788 caused the food crisis that contributed to the outbreak of the French Revolution. More recently, in 2005, Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc that led to disturbances in civil order and the deployment of the army on American soil.

Beyond borders, climate change can stoke international conflict over the control of vital and increasingly scarce resources — particularly water. Examples of this include the tensions among Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia over the Nile and its tributaries, between Israel and its neighbors over the Jordan River basin, and among Turkey, Syria and Iraq over the Euphrates.

Another source of insecurity is the massive displacement of people. By making certain areas uninhabitable, droughts and rising water levels uproot entire populations. They often find refuge in regions that are already overpopulated, creating or exacerbating tensions among countries or groups.

When uprooted, such populations can fall prey to radical movements. This is what happened in the Sahel in the late 1970s, when extreme droughts contributed to the exodus of many Tuaregs toward Libya, many of whom then enrolled in Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s Islamic Legion. A trace of this was found in the destabilization of northern Mali that led to France’s military intervention in 2013.


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