Cooperation Is Vital to Address Global Challenges

Global governance is key to build mutual understanding, action, trust and peace.

Editor’s Note: The world has been faced with many challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change today. How will the world address these problems? What can we learn from the past and ongoing havocs? Laurent Fabius, President of the Constitutional Council of France since 8 March 2016, gives his insights into these questions. He also served as former French Prime Minister from 1984 to 1986.

What can we learn from the Covid-19 pandemic?

Laurent Fabius: COVID-19 has shown like probably never before that we live in a world where global and local issues are closely interconnected. The outbreak and spread of the pandemic has rapidly become a global problem, because the virus does not stop at national borders. In spite of some excellent initiatives, responses to the pandemic have shown the shortcomings of global governance. There have been frequent and uncoordinated actions from various countries. Human and economic damages are very high. Geopolitical tensions have been rising. Inequalities between rich and poor countries have sharpened, and the call for social justice has increased.

In some countries, more than 70 percent of the population is vaccinated, while less than 1 percent in some others. As the APEC recently underlined rightly, “Fair distribution of COVID-19 vaccines is necessary.” It is time for our global community, in this domain like in many others, to support and reinforce a multilateralism based on trust and solidarity. For medical and moral reasons, this is our only way out of the present sanitary crisis.

The beginning of the 21st century has brought numerous deep changes in our societies, digital, biotechnological, strategic, military, climatic and so on and so forth. These revolutions are somewhat different, but they have common features. In particular, most of them are interdisciplinary, inter-generational and international. They all pose problems of global governance reconciling international cooperation and national sovereignty, short-term and long-term requirements, authority and freedom, rights and duty, etc.

In this context, a strong multilateralism is needed to ensure efficiency and global justice. It is crystal clear that we need to work together on many of these questions with a more cooperative approach, particularly between Europe, China, and the US, despite obvious differences we can have. Today, confrontational and selfish behaviors become more and more frequent. The recurrent attacks on multilateralism are dangerous for world stability. The answer must be a strong defence of international dialogue of multinational organizations, a respect of international law, cooperation and tolerance to tackle the challenges of the 21st century.

How important is cooperation when it comes to tackling climate change?

Laurent Fabius: It is particularly true on the issue of climate emergency. As far as this issue is concerned, the overall climate situation is critical, due essentially to CO2 emissions, especially coal, oil and gas. Numerous scientific reports show that, if we continue the present trend, we risk to reach a warming of 3 or 4 degrees Celsius, maybe more, by the end of this century, while the Paris Agreement I had the honour to prepare and to chair has set a maximum of 1.5 or 2 degrees, agreed at that time by every single country in the world.

This summer has been marked by a record and terrible combination of heat and flooding. For instance, last June, over 46 degrees in several US cities and 49 degrees in Canada, similar records in Spain and Morocco. Unprecedented heatwaves in Norway, Finland, Siberia as well as in Madagascar, catastrophic fires. In July, record rainfalls and catastrophic floodings in China, Nepal, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg. So, torrents of muds and torrents of tears. We may fear that such disasters will multiply.

These phenomena confirm what I and many others have been saying for a very long time: climate change is not just for tomorrow; it is already here today. It does not just concern others; it concerns all of us. And it will not be only fought by speeches but by actions. It cannot be “business as usual”.

National and international new responses are needed. On the one hand, nations must build ambitious solutions taking into account the national context. On the other hand, an international framework is necessary to coordinate the national answers and to ensure coherence in the global climate policies. Five years ago, the Paris Agreement raised large hopes. Since, many positive actions, technological innovations and a greater awareness have taken place. Today, the worldwide reference is the Paris Agreement, but the real overall climate situation remains very critical. Our future, as described by IPCC or IEA and most scientific groups, is really worrisome.

During the next weeks and months, important meetings will take place, the IUCN World Conference in Marseille, France, in September, the G20 meeting in Italy in October, the crucial Glasgow COP26 on Climate Change in November, then the COP15 in Kunming. The keywords for all these meetings are clear-cut: implementation, cooperation, action, efficiency, financing and social justice.

For that, we need a strong alliance of all actors: states, cities, regions, businesses and individuals. New important domains must be associated too. For instance, climate COPs have to be more inclusive, and to address the real, central issue of a worldwide carbon pricing system. But also, and this would be new and important, they have to include improvements and commitments in sectors like education, culture and training for sustainable development, which are decisive in a long- and short-term perspective.

In my book, Rouge Carbone, which has been recently translated to Chinese, I insist, among others, on the fundamental role of young people to build a fair and sustainable future. This is true for the fight against climate change. This is also true for all global issues.

Global governance is key to build mutual understanding, action, trust and peace. According to an African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together.”