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11 people who made COP21 history (for better or for worse)

Here are the key actors of COP21 in Paris. They played a crucial role, but not always in support of climate.

Behind the negotiations carried out at Le Bourget for 13 days by 19,385 delegates from 195 countries in 2,500 meetings, there are some people that played a crucial role. Many committed to finding bold agreements, whilst others slowed down the works, putting at risk the results of the climate conference.

“I wish all those who contributed to achieve this goal were here today”: the words of Laurent Fabius to present the Paris Agreement reflect the presence, the work and the efforts carried out by many, many protagonists. Here are the key characters.

Kofi Annan

The expression “climate justice” has begun to be spreaded in 2009, when the movement Tck Tck Tck convinced the former United Nations Secretary-General Annan to talk about this concept, previously unknown. Now, everybody knows that the countries least responsible for CO2 emissions are also those most affected by their consequences.

Anote Tong

Tong is President of the Kiribati archipelago since 2003, when the Kyoto Protocol wasn’t in force yet. Year after year, he succeeded in bringing the petitions of island countries – which could soon disappear – to the main international meetings, from the United Nations General Assembly to the European Parliament. And if the limit of the global temperature rise to 1.5 has been mentioned in the Paris Agreement, is also thanks to him.

 

Diana Ros and the Saweto indigenous community

“We refuse to die,” said out loud the indigenous people arrived at Paris to get their voice heard. Among them, Diana Rios, a girl whose father was killed by criminals for protecting the Amazon. She was threatened with death for her decision of participating in COP21.

Phumzile Mlambo-Nguka

She is the woman speaking for all women. She went to COP21 to say how important reaching gender equality is, also in the fight against climate change. It’s no coincidence that she chose the pavilion of Morocco, the country to host COP22, to deliver her mission. It is an African country that decided to invest in renewables and in women rights to grow.

 

Maite Nkoana-Mashabane

She served as chairman of COP17 in Durban, the 2011 conference that gave life to the Ad-hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, which changed the climate negotiations leading to INDCs, i.e. the pledges to reduce CO2 emissions submitted by governments to the UNFCCC. Such promises are now the basis of the Paris Agreement.

 

Ali bin Ibrahim Al-Naimi

There’s not much to say. The Head of the Saudi delegation and Oil Minister of Riyadh is the real responsible for the extension of talks beyond the date initially set. “Thanks” to him the term “decarbonisation” has been cancelled from the agreement.

 

Ajay Mathur

He was Head of the New Delhi delegation. Alongside Saudi Arabia, India has been an obstacle, despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi had positively started the talks, which later turned into something like “We are going to reduce coal consumption if the world will fund our transition towards renewables”. However, the Head of US negotiators, Todd Stern, defined Mathur’s speech as “positive”.

 

Christiana Figueres

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is the treaty at the top of the negotiations pyramid. Figueres is Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC. She managed to convince over 50 heads of state to go to Paris so that international media would have talked about COP21, and that the opening ceremony would have made the headlines. Mission accomplished.

 

Naomi Klein

Often remembered for no Logo and the birth of the no global movement, Naomi Klein did much more. For instance, she wrote a book on capitalism and climate. During COP21 she gathered activists and citizens of the countries most affected by climate change that found themselves disoriented after the decision of the French government of banning any public demonstration. However, thousands of people gathered under the Eiffel Tower turning the tense situation after the Paris attacks into a festive atmosphere.

 

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Al Gore

Okay, his name could seem obvious. After all, Gore is the one who brought global warming in cinemas all over the world, on the red carpet during the night of the Oscars, and in Oslo during the Nobel award ceremony. However, his presence at COP21 has been considered as that of a common person. His face was everywhere. He attended, front line, all crucial meetings. As if he was the “ghost” head of the United Nations. It’s not difficult to imagine that Gore, late at night, tries to mediate between oil giants, the United States and the most threatened countries.

 

Laurent Fabius

French Foreign Minister and charmain of COP21. Fabius succeeded in reaching the best balance possible despite the presence of hundreds of countries with different ideas of the path to walk through.

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