Travelling to Paris in December 2016 as full-fledged members of a high-powered research team investigating the success of the Paris climate Agreement provided a special opportunity to delve behind the scenes of the Paris Agreement. The team uncovered the factors that led to its success and the role of global governance and diplomacy in current global issues.
Led by MPPGA Professor Yves Tiberghien (UBC) and including leading scholars such as Steven Bernstein (Munk School) and Richard Balme (Sciences Po), the research team benefitted from the support of the French Embassy in Canada (Saint-Simon Initiative) and Canadian Minister of Environment Catherine McKenna. This high-level bi-country support allowed Professor Tiberghien to arrange access to the top government players in the COP 21 negotiations.
The research trip centred around a colloquium hosted by the Académie Diplomatique Internationale, marking the one year anniversary of the signing of the Paris Agreement (December 12, 2015). This colloquium offered the chance to connect with senior figures in government, the UN and civil society (businesses and NGOs) who were closely involved in the Agreement’s formation. We heard first-hand how the Agreement evolved and was shaped, as well as the successes and challenges that occurred along its journey. It was a chance to see the immense commitment of those involved in the Agreement’s development and to feel hope about its resilience as we look to the future and reflect on the concerning political events of 2016.
Interviewing high-ranking officials in the French Government was a second pillar of the research. There again, their integrity and passion was refreshing and inspiring. The experience changed our vision of diplomacy and international politics, from very abstract, closed and impersonal to grounded, true and human! We found that the people themselves were important, and had a real sense of agency, even while being part of an immense bureaucracy. The high point of the research in Paris was a full 1.5 hour private interview with Laurent Fabius, the former French Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, COP 21 President, and current President of the Constitutional Court. This rare meeting provided amazing insights into how Fabius orchestrated three years of diplomatic negotiations, as a genuine maestro orchestrating the nations to reach this ambitious global agreement.
It was insightful to discover the unique factors that led to the success of the Paris Agreement, and the important role that diplomacy played in its development. It was also a highlight to hear how the learnings from the Paris process may potentially be applied to other global issues.
Being part of the research team was a privilege – we look forward to contributing to this project as it goes forward and applying the insights we have gained in both our future roles and more immediately in our study this semester as we dive into policy framework cycles.
– Elisha Connell and Laurélène Faye, MPPGA Students
Note: Following this experience, Laurélène was inspired to shift the focus of her degree by changing her MPPGA stream to Global Governance!