This page was archived on October 2020.


Climate change

14 - Climate change

Grade: A-
Unity 4/5
Resources 4/5
Strategy 4/5
Impact 4/5
Total 16/20
Scorecard 2015: B (13/20)
Scorecard 2014: B- (11/20)
Scorecard 2013: B (13/20)
Scorecard 2012: A- (16/20)

France led a successful European push for progress on climate change, delivering a better-than-expected deal

The climate change agreement signed in Paris in December represented the high point of European multilateral diplomacy in 2015. EU member states were keen to avoid a repeat of the disastrous 2009 Copenhagen climate talks. France devoted huge diplomatic capital to preparing for the summit, although differences with developing countries and the US often threatened to derail any serious bargain.

Member states were broadly united in support of France, although Poland remained particularly sceptical about the process, reflecting its heavy reliance on coal. The European Council settled on a strong common position in advance of the talks in September.

In the run-up to the final negotiations, there were open divisions between the US and France over whether the final agreement should be a legally binding treaty. While Paris argued for the strongest possible document, with the support of its EU partners, it eventually had to acquiesce to US demands that key elements of the text should be solely political, thereby avoiding a hopeless battle in Congress.

However, the US and EU were largely aligned in a final push for an agreement in December. The weeks before the summit were tense, as developing countries criticised Western positions on issues including financing for developing countries. The November Paris attacks created additional momentum for success, however. In the final talks, Washington was crucial to keeping China on board. EU members coordinated effectively to corral other partners: Germany ensured Russia’s cooperation, while the EU as a whole launched a push to strengthen the deal. This group, which amplified the voices of victims of climate change such as the Marshall Islands, successfully pushed for relatively strong mechanisms for states to report on and review their carbon emissions after 2020, overcoming Chinese opposition.

The final deal, committing the world to keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, was stronger than most observers had expected. There was widespread praise for France, even from sceptical nations, for bringing the process to fruition.