The French Environment Minister Segolene Royal has said she will head the United Nations’ COP21 climate summit after a long-time political rival, former foreign minister Laurent Fabius, stepped down from the role.
French President Francois Hollande “offered me the opportunity yesterday to take on this responsibility, and I accepted,” she told French television news channel iTELE.
COP21 is the acronym for the 21st Conference of Parties to the UN climate initiative.
Its president comes from the country that hosts the forum’s annual high-level gathering, and usually plays a key role in brokering agreements in the complex negotiations.
Mr Fabius, appointed in November, was hailed for shepherding the 195 nations to a historic deal, now known as the Paris Agreement, which involves curbing carbon emissions and channelling hundreds of billions of dollars to poor countries exposed to climate change.
Critics argued that he could not simultaneously be on the court, which is supposed to be above the political fray, and also in charge of COP21, where politics and powerful interests collide.
AFP reports Ms Royal, President Hollande’s former companion and the mother of their four children, was among the first to raise objections, calling for “the rules to be clarified” on double postings.
In her new role, Ms Royal will guide the first steps for implementing the December agreement, which set the ambitious goal of capping global warming at “well under two degrees Celsius” above pre-industrial levels.
The 32-page deal also calls on rich nations to muster at least US$100 billion dollars a year in climate aid from 2020.
Just how that will happen has yet to be worked out.
“There’s a lot to do. I have already started.”
Among her priorities, she said, are putting a price on carbon and climate action in Africa.
“Africa can be a laboratory for transitioning away from fossil fuels using solar, geothermal, hydroelectricity,” she said.
“We need a systematic approach, and we have to get moving before the end of 2016.”
She has said President Hollande will attend and encourage other heads of state to join him.
France will hands on the climate baton to Morocco, which will organise COP22 in Marrakesh from November 7 to 18.