World Leaders Gather in Paris for UN Climate Talks

Negotiations over two weeks involving nearly 150 nations and 25,000 delegates aim to limit global warming to 2°C

World leaders have begun addressing delegates at the UN climate conference in Paris known as COP21, aimed at forging a deal to limit global warming to 2C.

One Minute Climate Change

Both US president Barack Obama and Francois Hollande issued rallying cries to officials, urging them to commit to reducing emissions.

Obama said his country recognised its role in contributing to the climate change crisis, and would take the lead in fighting against it.

“Nearly 200 nations have assembled here this week, a declaration that for all the challenges we face, the growing threat of climate change could define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other.

“Our nations share a sense of urgency about this challenge and a growing realisation that it is within our power to do something about it.”

“One of the enemies we’ll be fighting at this conference is cynicism…our progress should give us hope during these two weeks.”

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Earlier, French President Francois Hollande called on developed states to take ownership of the crisis and help countries threatened by changing weather patterns.

“My thoughts go out to those islands that may soon disappear…developed countries must take responsibility. They are the ones who for years emitted the most green house gases,” Hollande said.

Heads of 147 state and government are in the French capital for the start of two weeks of intense negotiations.

Monday’s agenda includes speeches by the leaders and environment ministers from a number of countries, including Germany, Iceland, Peru and Scotland.

A total of 25,000 official delegates hope to secure a legally binding accord for every country to cut carbon emissions.

The accord needs to come into effect from the year 2020, when current commitments from the Kyoto Protocol run out.

The talks hope to resolve the concerns of large developing countries, such as India, that say they are dependent on fossil fuels to spur economic growth, and richer countries, which are moving towards adopting cleaner energy sources but continue to be a big source of emissions.

Smaller and poorer countries that are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change are pressing for a deal that prioritises their safety.

Al Jazeera’s Nick Clark, reporting from Paris, said China had previously been seen as an obstacle in reaching a deal, but its leaders had recently stressed the importance of finding renewable alternatives to fossil fuels.

“China has been a big spoiler in previous climate conferences but it seems to have changed its ways and pollution is one of the reasons why … so they really want to clean up their act on that front,” he said.

Obama is due to hold meetings with other world leaders during his two days in Paris, including with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi, Indian prime minister.

Work for the COP21 summit began to get under way on Sunday, with Laurent Fabius, French foreign minister, laying out a road map for negotiations before the official opening.

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The summit comes amid violent clashes between French police and anti-global warming activists who marched despite a ban on public demonstrations brought in after the Paris attacks.

Police used tear gas and pepper spray to disperse the protesters during one of several events urging world leader’s to take stronger measures to prevent climate change on Sunday.

Earlier in the day, in a bid to circumvent security measures implemented after the November 13 attacks, thousands of shoes were placed in the city’s sprawling central plaza to represent citizens urging a climate agreement.

Organisers of the display said that the Vatican donated a pair of shoes bearing the name of Pope Francis.

Hundreds of people also formed human chains in the late morning, interlinking arms and hands along the sidewalks between the central Place de la Republique and the Bataclan concert hall, where nearly 100 people were killed in one of the attacks.


Reprinted with permission from Al Jazeera