Laurence Tubiana (Oran, 1951) was the architect of the Paris Agreement against climate change. François Hollande’s French government put him in charge of designing a formula to convince all states that something had to be done to stop the disastrous accelerated warming of the planet caused by human gas emissions. On the project she planned the failure of the Copenhagen summit. When Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius gave the hammer in December 2015, he was able to say: “mission accomplished”.
The tragedy in the Alps, the most extreme effect of the path to the extinction of the glaciers
After that, she is now the head of the European Climate Foundation. She has come to Madrid to talk about how to prevent fossil fuels from hijacking the necessary decarbonisation of the economy. In a conversation with elDiario.es, it is clear that she no longer acts diplomatically. The latest European decision to consider gas and nuclear as green energies has him outraged. She no longer has to bite her tongue. And she shows.
How disappointed have you been that the European Parliament has labeled gas and nuclear energy as green?
I was furious because it seems to me that it is not the time to do it and it does not give the necessary signal for investments. Russia must have been very happy. I think that this war is not only an attack against Ukraine, but also against the European model that includes the Green New Deal and stop using fossil fuels.
It undermines the European discourse that we are a ‘Climate Champion’…
It is a very delicate signal when in Glasgow [la COP26 de noviembre de 2021] An agreement has been signed not to finance investments in fossil fuels in other countries. Imagine the African states that want to further develop the exploitation of oil and gas because now they can say: “Like you, right?”
We have to focus on the impacts of climate change because everyone sees that. And about solidarity to help countries confront problems because, if not, there will be massive migration
And what is the message to citizens?
A very bad message. The Green New Deal and the 55% reduction in emissions are ambitious plans and things are being done, so this decision is a stupid message indeed. Of course, it is necessary to use the gas for a while and look for different sources to stop giving this money that is being given to Russia every day, but it does not make sense.
And a short time ago came the United States Supreme Court ruling that undermined action against climate change…
It is a very ideological ruling, like other decisions on abortion and weapons. A matter of cultural identity of “we are against renewables” when, in reality, in the United States investments in renewables are very high. Texas, which is the iconic oil state, is the largest exporter of wind energy in the United States.
Do you see the risk that this polarization will be replicated in Europe on account of the fight against the climate crisis?
I hope that in Europe it does not become so polarized, although there are people in it. The American population is worried about the weather, but so involved and it depends a lot on where they live within the country. But in Europe all the surveys, every time we do studies, say that the sensitivity of European societies is very high.
How will those movements affect the effort to contain global warming?
We have setbacks in the short term due to the war and that is normal, that is why the vigilance of citizens is what can put pressure to go where we have said we are going to go: to cut emissions by 55% in 2030 and that must be done .
Is the fear of inflation, of scarcity, being a tool to delay the steps required by that plan?
That is the risk. In the period of COVID the population thought in terms of health, but there was no pressure against the Green New Deal. Now that is more complicated because inflation makes people panic, it is not known what impact it will have on employment or consumption. That is why it is necessary to design short-term policies that cushion the blow, but not compromise the direction that is investments and reforms of the electricity market system. And, for this reason, classifying gas and nuclear as green is a step backwards. And you also have to meet the needs of people with a maximum price for electricity.
Has the momentum driving climate action dissolved a bit?
Problems at home are very urgent. And the biggest problem is geopolitical tension. Although the United States and China are talking, I do not think they will agree on greater climate ambition. There are contradictory forces and as the international order is collapsing, it is very difficult…
What needs to be done to bring this crisis back to the fore?
We have to focus on the impacts of climate change because everyone sees that. And about adaptation to change and solidarity to help countries confront problems because, if not, there will be massive migration. Border control is not going to work. There are millions of people who want to leave because of the climate crisis. In Chad or in Syria they leave because of the drought.
Because the effects are becoming more palpable everywhere…
Show that the impact of climate change is costing a lot of money and a lot of misery. Even a food crisis: in Ethiopia, Sudan or Niger it is so big that there is going to be a terrible famine and there is no talk because everyone is with domestic things.
Do you see the Paris Agreement in danger?
It has been stronger than I thought when I designed it. It is an agreement not only between governments but also involving local communities, companies or financial entities. That has caused that when Donald Trump left, many States said: “We stay”. And when Bolsonaro in Brazil or Australia did nothing, his business sectors prevented them from leaving. Bolsonaro would have been happy to take the country out of the Agreement, but they did not let him.
We have very little time and we are already at 1.2 ºC of temperature increase. Nobody can ignore the climatic impact anymore, but, the truth, it seems that everyone does it as slowly as possible…
So what is the concern?
That climate change is accelerating. I entered these negotiations in 1997 and then it was thought that the limit would be a concentration of 500 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere. It was considered that there was margin. But in reality the scientists of the IPCC have seen that it is necessary to be below 400 ppm. Science has shown that we are going too slow.
The problem is, then, in dragging your feet?
We have very little time and we are already at 1.2 ºC of temperature increase. The framework that is the Agreement works. The situation has been understood. Nobody can ignore the climatic impact anymore, but, the truth, it seems that everyone does it as slowly as possible…
What recipe do you use to dismantle ecoanism, that anguish when seeing that the situation worsens and the solution does not come?
My solution for eco-anxiety is action. If you’re fatalistic, it’s horrible because what do you expect? like in the movie Don’t look up if you wait to die what will you do? Becoming an active agent changes perspective. You are no longer the victim and that is the best response. That’s why when they ask me if I’m an optimist or a pessimist, I say: I don’t worry. I am an activist.