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Divine intervention at COP21

A diplomat with good contacts to the Pope was able to bring the Catholic Church leader to call at a decisive point in Central America


  • Christoph Seidler
  • 14 de diciembre 2015

Guests in the Chamber waited for “him”. And they waited for a long time. For about two hours, the top climate diplomat sat from 196 countries around the world, most of them ministers, already eager expectations in their places. But nothing happened. Again and again the French hosts moved on Saturday night to start the decisive session for global climate treaty. Behind the scenes were three problems to solve. If they had been discussed on an open stage, it would have made the successful negotiations of Paris might at the last second to nothing. At the end cared so is to hear a call from Rome for a decisive breakthrough.

But one by one: There were first of all the Americans. They had a problem in Article 4.4 of the agreement envisaged. Just one word. A “shall”, so they demanded, should be replaced by a “should” – “shall” with “should”. Six letters instead of five. The smell of hair-splitting. However, it came to a passage of text to which you looked closely especially in the Congress in Washington – perhaps because a legally binding obligation for CO2 reductions would it be derived.

Turkey wants to continue to retain a special role

The Republican majority in parliament would then certainly insisted to vote on the Treaty – and then ripped him in the air. This risk could not enter the US delegation. Because of this, Foreign Minister showed John Kerry and his people hard. Summit President Laurent Fabius would later solve the problem at the meeting with a trick from the very high school of diplomacy: that word “shall” is at this point quite simply a clerical error, he said wittily, caused by a bleary-eyed assistant.

In earlier versions of the text there is also a “should” have finally confessed. So we’ll correct it hastily again. Problem solved – also because countries like India, China and Brazil had previously signaled their agreement to this way out of the hand.

Then there was the matter with the Turks. They are a kind of a special case in the negotiations. Since the Kyoto Protocol, the States were divided on climate change in industrialized and developing countries – and had to do something or not accordingly. Turkey was among “economy in transition”, as well as other Eastern bloc countries, but which are now EU member. In Ankara we called up last, that the special status must be preserved.

The negotiating mandate of the Turkish negotiators, so one heard in Paris, was written directly in the presidential palace – that’s why they were able to show virtually no flexibility in the final hours of the summit.But even this sticking point could be solved diplomatically. Until the climate summit in Moroccan Marrakech next year should be a first proposal to be developed, so the agreement. The escalation was prevented here.

Necessary to postpone problems at a later meeting, this is not new in the air operation – and brings after a certain time often surprisingly good results. Just not so fast. This principle applies here, which brought at the end of the Turks on line.

Nicaragua made ​​to last fundamental opposition

However, the hardest nut probably was Nicaragua. Its chief negotiator Paul Oquist, born American and Doctor of Political Science at the University of California at Berkeley, had made it clear that his country would agree under any circumstances. The mustachioed Oquist is considered a close confidant of President Daniel Ortega – and accompanied the climate negotiations for a long time on his very special way.

The line of Nicaraguans is described with fundamental opposition quite well. They are demanding that the industrialized countries have to exert much more to save the climate. As the only country in the world they reject it explicitly from to publish national climate protection targets – as it did already 186 of 196 countries. The argument: The voluntary nature of the commitments send the world on track for a temperature rise of three or even four degrees. Since one wants to be an accomplice.

To solve the problem, so we are told it is in any event in Paris, the French government finally put on a call from the very top – in the truest sense of the word. A diplomat with good contacts to the Pope was able to bring the Catholic Church leader to call at a decisive point in Central America. He had been for even extra fetched from a trade, they say.

Francis has clearly positioned itself as a climate protection

Francis has clearly positioned itself with its environment encyclical (“About the concern for the common house”) of June as climate protection – and appeals not only to the powerful of the world, but to everyone. But his intervention on Saturday directed apparently targeted at the high policy. And, it seems, they had success.

The Nicaraguan Oquist apparently got new orders from above. Anyway, he stopped the contract in the decisive final session not that began well for him with two hours late. Although he asked before the decisive vote for the floor, but the summit President Fabius hammering the agreement beforehand by – and earned a standing ovation. 

As Oquist then spoke, although he complained that his country was “not heard” and criticized: “This weakens multilateralism”. But the wrong-way driver he was not – the Agreement remained untouched. Laurent Fabius told then, we take the concerns definitely shelved. In other words, the matter is settled. And it looks like, even the Pope has helped with this is that the world now has a historic climate treaty for the first time, which applies to all States.

Originally published on Spiegel Online.