Mr. President, just a few weeks ago it was my honour to speak at your inauguration, and I quoted the author Chateaubriand. We meet today at the Sorbonne, the illustrious crucible of many fields of study, so I will today cite one of history’s greatest scientists, Albert Einstein, who wrote in 1934: “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything”.
“Do something”: that is watchword for this day and for the Global Pact for the Environment. As I deliver this Draft Projet, we are handing it over to the President of the Republic that hosted the Paris Agreement, and also to a champion of the environment who is fully engaged in this great cause. Mr. President, thank you for choosing this event as an opportunity to once again demonstrate your support for action on the environment. “Once again”, because no one has forgotten that earlier this month, on the very evening of the American president’s ominous decision on the Paris Agreement, you made a statement that was remarkable for its directness and strong impact.
I would also like to express our thanks to the eminent guests, some of whom have travelled far to join us, for honouring us with their presence here at this event in support of the Global Pact for the Environment. I cannot name each and every one here. However – I hope you will not hold it against me – allow me to acknowldedge a few of these special participants – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, President Mary Robinson and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. I would like to thank the Club des Juristes, the backbone of our project, especially Yann Aguila, and all those who have made today’s meeting possible. I would like to thank all of you for your presence here in the Sorbonne’s Grand Amphithéâtre.
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Mr. President, in 2002 at the Johannesburg Earth Summit, your antepenultimate predecessor, Jacques Chirac, said, “Our house is burning down and we are blind to it”. Fifteen years later, I would say, “we are no longer blind, but the fire burns on and it is even more destructive than before”.
This is the double paradox of our time. The Paris Agreement was reached in 2015, massively ratified in 2017; along with the Sustainable Development Goals, these represent major international advances. And yet – this is the first paradox – the data on climate change continue to give us great cause for concern, in particular with the catastrophic number of diseases and deaths that are associated with climate disruption. The second paradox is that at the very moment that more action is required, some are backing off: that is the meaning – or rather the absence of meaning – of the American president’s action. How can anyone claim to be in favour of security and peace while running away from the fight against global warming, which is one of the main sources of conflict in the world? To overcome this double paradox, action is the only solution: local, national and multilateral action; individual and collective action; public and private action; full implementation of the Paris Agreement, in particular with regard to financial agreements to assist poor countries; reinforcement of the multi-annual contributions of each State, and mass mobilisation of non-governmental stakeholders. This is the action programme that has been accepted by all those who have understood that destruction of the environment is self-destruction, and that by working towards development that is based on solidarity and low carbon consumption, we can create the conditions of immense progress.
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Action therefore. And as members of the legal profession, we act through the law. As Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot emphasized, the law is essential if we are to adapt to the new world and if we are to adapt that world. It became clear that we could facilitate general action in favour of the environment by the preparation and the adoption of a Global Pact for the Environment. The United Nations has already adopted two Global Pacts, in 1966, one dedicated to civil and political rights, the other to economic, cultural and social rights. This third Pact, fifty years later, is designed to bring together the principles applicable to the wide sphere of the environment, with binding legal force. This is the origin of the initiative launched by the Club français des Juristes, joined by experts from around the world, which I have been asked to preside.
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Mr. President, this idea for a Global Pact for the Environment is something that you are sensitive to, because you included it in your campaign proposals. The Draft Project that I will present to you officially in a moment is the product of long, hard work. It is a short, mobilizing text. It is ambitious and realistic. It has a preamble and 26 articles, each devoted to one aspect of international law and development – most of which enjoy consensus. In particular, the subject is the right to an ecologically sound environment; the duty to take care of the environment, to exercise prevention and precaution; to remediate environmental damages; to enforce “polluters pay”; to establish inter-generational equity; to ensure public information and participation, access to environmental justice, education and training in environmental protection. The Pact also provides for the vital role of non-governmental stakeholders; the effectiveness of environmental standards; resilience; non-regression of standards and shared but differentiated responsibilities. It suggests mechanisms for implementation and follow-up. In order to make this an international treaty – for that is our objective –, this project will call for a strong push from the government and multiple forms of political and diplomatic collaboration. These are not easy tasks. But we believe that you will be able to create the coalitions necessary to achieve the great advance: the world will finally have a legally binding international text to protect our planet and humankind.
The Parties to the present Pact,
Acknowledging the growing threats to the environment and the need to act in an ambitious and concerted manner at the global level to better ensure its protection,