When French foreign minister Laurent Fabius brought down the gavel on the Paris Agreement on 12 December 2015, the international community reached a goal that had eluded it for six years: an updated and universal climate change agreement. It owed much to France’s diplomacy over the preceding 12 months, together with efficient, firm and innovative handling of the conference itself. Fundamental to the success of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) was the commitment at all levels from President Hollande down to engage with the broadest range of parties and non-state actors. The fruits of France’s engagement were nowhere more apparent than in the small island states’ comment in the final plenary that this was the first time they felt they had been listened to at a COP.
The Paris Agreement and its lengthy accompanying decision can be seen as the completion of the third phase of international climate change negotiations, which finally allows for the full implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).