After two weeks of challenging talks, Laurent Fabius’ quotations from Nelson Mandela were too much for many observers
The deal reached in Paris by more than 190 countries to limit the impact of climate change on the world has been met with messages of excitement, optimism and relief from around the globe, with a few notable exceptions.
But amid the excitement as the historic Paris Agreement was put forward on Saturday afternoon, most will have missed the moment when the emotion – even for hardened diplomats – finally boiled over.
Presiding over COP21, it fell to the French foreign minister Laurent Fabius to present the draft commitment that would shortly be agreed to by all those assembled.
He revealed that the agreement would include a legally-binding pledge to keep global warming “well below” 2C, as well as the goal of aiming for the “acceptable” threshold of 1.5C.
It was all translated into clipped English by the UN’s own highly professional staff, even as Mr Fabius’s own voice started to falter as he thanked those who had worked towards the deal but were “no longer here” to witness the historic day.
The unnamed translator’s words failed her, however, as Mr Fabius concluded his speech with a quote from the late Nelson Mandela.
He said – and she translated: “Let me conclude. One of you mentioned the other day a famous quote by Nelson Mandela, most suited to the occasion: ‘It always seems impossible until it’s done.’
“I would like to add a few more words, by the same hero: ‘None of us acting alone can achieve success.’
“Success is within reach of all our hands working together. Together, in this room, you are going to decide on a historic agreement. The world is waiting with bated breath and is counting on us all. Thank you.”
You can view the full speech, with English translation turned on, on the UN website here. Just a few hours later, the deal was agreed to with the consensus of the convened countries, and reactions have been pouring in ever since.
President Barack Obama, who attended the start of the Paris summit, said the deal represented “the best chance we have to save the one planet we have”.
President Francois Hollande said: “In Paris, there have been many revolutions over the centuries. Today it is the most beautiful and the most peaceful revolution that has just been accomplished – a revolution for climate change.”
Speaking to the Associated Press on Sunday afternoon, the president of the World Bank said he was stunned by the agreement adopted in Paris. Jim Yong Kim said he was still “in a bit of a shock, a happy shock” after hearing the news.
And Pope Francis, who urged the world’s two billion Catholics towards action on climate change earlier this year, said implementing the deal would require “concerted effort and generous dedication on the part of everyone”.