Stéphane Crouzat: “Africa deserves special consideration at COP28”

01 12 2023 | 18:21Press / AFRIK21

In this exclusive interview, on the eve of COP28, Stéphane Crouzat, the French chief negotiator, discusses crucial issues: fossil fuel management, the specific needs of Africa in the face of climate imperatives, and innovative initiatives for sustainable financing. At a time when COP28 marks the first five-year review of the Paris Agreement, the French ambassador for climate negotiations stresses the importance of coordinating global efforts, particularly those of the G20, for a fair and effective energy transition.

Afrik21: What are France’s main objectives at COP28? And how do you intend to achieve them?

Stéphane Crouzat: Our climate objectives in France are aligned with those of the EU, requiring effective coordination. COP28 is crucial, because it marks the first five-year global review of the Paris Agreement. Unfortunately, we are not fully meeting the targets, especially in terms of reducing emissions to limit the rise in temperatures to 1.5-2 degrees. A major issue will be the management of fossil fuels, which still make up 80% of the world’s energy mix and 60% in France. It is essential to establish a trajectory for reducing these emissions in line with the commitments made in the Paris Agreement.

Africa, the continent that pollutes the least and is the most affected by climate change, finds itself in a delicate situation when faced with global demands to reduce fossil fuels. On the one hand, Africa needs these energies for its development and, on the other, it has historically contributed little to global pollution. Don’t you think there is a risk that this will hinder the necessary development of Africa, at a time when countries that are already developed have largely contributed to the current climate crisis?

Our approach to reducing fossil fuels, in agreement with the European Union (EU), focuses on the G20, which is responsible for 80% of global emissions. The diversity within the G20, including countries such as Saudi Arabia, France and Argentina, obviously makes climate discussions complex. But for Africa, which accounts for only 7% of global emissions, it is essential to recognise its limited contribution and its need for development. Countries like Senegal, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Ivory Coast deserve special consideration. I am firmly convinced that the main polluters must be at the forefront of efforts to reduce emissions. The EU, once a major polluter, has reduced its emissions while boosting its economy, demonstrating that sustainable economic growth is achievable with less electricity use, greater energy efficiency and the development of renewable energies.

What is France’s position on countries like Senegal and Ivory Coast, which exploit fossil fuels?

We understand the specific challenges faced by countries like Senegal and Ivory Coast. For example, with Senegal we have initiated a Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP), which has already been implemented in South Africa. This innovative financing model supports Senegal’s transition to clean energy, while addressing the social issues associated with this transition. Our objective with Senegal is ambitious: to achieve 40% of electricity capacity from renewable sources by 2030. This partnership, which we will be presenting at COP28, reflects our commitment to supporting Africa in its energy transition, recognizing the development needs of these countries and respecting their historically low contributions to global emissions.

What are France’s expectations for COP28 in relation to the issues addressed at the Summit for a New Global Financial Pact, in particular new international taxes, the reallocation of Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), and the role of multilateral development banks? How do you envisage the application of these measures, particularly to support Africa in its climate action?

The Paris Summit, initiated by the French President in June 2023, highlighted our shortfall in funding for the energy transition and aid to developing countries. This summit brought together world leaders to accelerate action on innovative financing and the reform of international financial institutions. It resulted in the “Paris Pact for People and Planet”, based on three fundamental pillars. Firstly, no country should choose between fighting poverty and tackling climate change.

Secondly, each country must determine its own transition path. Thirdly, we need a financing shock, both in the public and private sectors.

The allocation of Special Drawing Rights, now at $100 billion, is a key step, and France has reallocated 40% of these funds to developing countries. We also aim to mobilize the private sector to direct its investments towards sustainable projects in developing countries, using guarantee systems and an environment conducive to such investments. These measures are essential to meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement: mitigation, adaptation and the alignment of financial flows towards a low-carbon and resilient economy.

The Paris Summit was an important step in this alignment, with the commitment of many developing countries. We have also taken into account innovative initiatives, such as debt standstill clauses in the event of climate disasters, allowing countries facing extreme climate shocks to temporarily suspend their debt. This financial flexibility is vital to avoid a double economic penalty in the event of a disaster. The Paris Summit thus marks a significant step forward in our global approach to supporting developing countries, particularly in Africa, in their fight against climate change.

How is France ensuring that climate financing really reaches the African populations most affected?

It is crucial that climate finance is used effectively, a responsibility shared between developed and developing countries. To ensure that aid reaches people directly, we support initiatives such as the Climate Risk and Early Warning System (CREWS), which benefits many African countries. This system provides early warnings of climate-related disasters, via means such as SMS text messages or local organisations. The aim is to ensure that investment serves the most vulnerable communities. This approach, which began at COP21, now covers tens of millions of people. Our ambition is for these climate funds to be deployed effectively from start to finish, responding directly to the needs of people on the ground.

What is France’s position on the decision to house the Loss and Damage Fund at the World Bank, and how do you plan to address the concerns of developing countries on this subject at COP28?

The Loss and Damage Fund, created at COP27 in Egypt, represents a major step forward. Initially requested by small island states and many African countries, this fund aims to address the financial impacts of climate change on vulnerable countries. The European Union, including France, supported this initiative. The challenge was to implement this fund. A transitional committee, in which France participated, worked on recommendations for its organization and governance. We sought a balance, knowing that a compromise never fully satisfies all parties.

France insisted that the fund should specifically target vulnerable populations, in particular small island developing states and least developed countries. We support an inclusive approach, allowing contributions from all capable countries, including those not listed in Annex 1 of the UN Convention.

Regarding the location of the fund, we debated whether to create an ad hoc fund or to use an existing channel. In the end, we opted for an intermediate solution, hosting the fund temporarily at the World Bank for a period of four years, while evaluating its effectiveness. If this approach works, we will continue with it; if not, we will look for alternatives. The important thing is that the fund is up and running quickly to help vulnerable communities.

As far as contributions are concerned, there is no fixed amount; they are voluntary. France is considering an initial significant contribution to be announced at COP28. As for historical responsibility, this is a complex and evolving issue. For example, China, which had minimal responsibility in 1992, now has a significant share in historical emissions. It is essential to recognize that responsibility is evolving and that countries must adapt their contributions accordingly. France, as a developed country, takes its historical responsibility seriously and is committed to supporting those countries most affected by climate change.

How does France plan to support African initiatives such as those proposed in the Nairobi Declaration, notably on the taxation of petroleum products?

France is actively involved in the development of carbon credits and in discussions on the taxation of petroleum products. Together with Kenya, we have launched a task force on international taxation, which includes interested countries, experts and institutions. This task force is exploring various forms of taxation that could finance climate action, such as taxes on airline tickets, paraffin, maritime transport, and potentially on petroleum products. The aim is to develop concrete recommendations between now and COP30 to make progress on these issues. We are proud to co-chair this initiative with Kenya, under the leadership of President William Ruto, who highlighted this important issue in Nairobi. This collaboration illustrates our commitment to a global and innovative approach to financing climate action.

Is there scope for renewed dialogue between France and Africa on climate issues?

France is firmly committed to an ongoing dialogue with Africa on climate challenges. We see Africa as a key partner in the global fight against global warming. We have already established solid partnerships, such as with Senegal and South Africa, and the French Development Agency (AFD) has invested massively in climate projects in Africa. These efforts range from climate change mitigation to adaptation, and we are determined to strengthen this cooperation to move forward together. Collaboration on initiatives such as forest conservation in the DRC is evidence of our shared commitment.

What are your most ambitious hopes for the outcome of COP28?

My ideal outcome for COP28 would be unanimous recognition of the need to move rapidly away from fossil fuels, while ensuring a fair and inclusive transition that preserves global energy security. It is crucial that this international solidarity is translated into concrete action, notably through the rapid operationalization of the Loss and Damage Fund established at Sharm El Sheikh. The ultimate objective is to maintain our trajectory towards the 1.5 degree limit, by seizing the narrowing window of opportunity.

Interview by Delphine Chêne and Jean Marie Takouleu