“THE Paris Conference will, without question, not resolve everything, but nothing can be resolved without it (…) All of us know that combating global warming is more than just an environmental matter (…) Together, let us make the Paris Climate Conference the historic success the world is waiting for.” With these words Laurent Fabius opened the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21) in Paris.
The French Foreign Minister and President of the Conference noted that the fight against climate change is an imperative obligation and stressed that, over the course of just 11 days, a universal and ambitious agreement must be reached.
Since November 30, the French capital has hosted 150 heads of state and government, participating in the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21).
The Conference is the setting in which they aim to reach a “universal agreement on climate change”, applicable to all countries and with the main objective of maintaining the increase in global temperature below 2°C.
Climate action was one of the 17 goals adopted last September at the UN Sustainable Development Summit.
The opening day of the event was marked by speeches from attending leaders, while participants observed a minute of silence for the victims of the recent terrorist attacks in the French capital and Saint-Denis, which left a total of 132 dead and over 300 injured.
As a result of the attacks, the Conference was reduced to official negotiations, with all side events suspended, including marches, demonstrations and festivals, and heavy security deployed.
UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon stated, “No cause can justify the violence that has occurred in recent days in Paris, but also in Beirut, in Baghdad or in Bamako.”
Meanwhile, French President Hollande called for “solidarity” in efforts against climate change and stressed that “No government should be able to shirk its commitments,” and that “No territory should be left alone to face climate change.”
U.S. President Barack Obama noted, “That future is one that we have the power to change. Right here. Right now. But only if we rise to this moment.”
According to the Argentine newspaper La Nación, before his speech, Obama met with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, and warned of the importance that the two countries coordinate regarding the fight against climate change and that there be “transparency” in their efforts.
Russian President Vladimir Putin stated, “We have gone beyond the target fixed by the Kyoto Protocol for the period 1991-2012. Russia not only prevented the growth of greenhouse gas emissions, by also significantly reduced them (…) Nearly 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent weren’t released into the atmosphere. As a comparison, the total emissions of all countries in 2012 reached 46 billion tons.”
The President of Brazil Dilma Rousseff noted, “There is a sense of urgency and we need to show leadership. Our action will be useful if it is collective. The best way to find solutions is to come together to reach a fair, ambitious and lasting agreement.”
China’s Xi Jinping highlighted that the country is currently at the forefront in terms of energy conservation and the use of renewable energy, and pledged to continue their efforts, in particular with regard to cooperation between nations of the South.
The President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, who also took to the podium on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, stressed that industrialized nations “which have the greatest historical responsibility, must honor their existing commitments and continue to take the lead to address climate change.”
During his speech, Evo Morales, President of Bolivia, warned, “If we continue on the path set by capitalism, we are doomed to disappear.”
According to Prensa Latina, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa assured that the primary response to combat this phenomenon must be environmental justice, and proposed the creation of an international court to this end.
According to Reuters, the warnings from climate scientists, demands of activists and leaders such as Pope Francis, coupled with breakthroughs in alternative energy sources, have added pressure to cut greenhouse gas emissions, responsible for global warming.
The Conference brings together delegations from some 195 countries at the Le Bourget Exhibition Center, north of the French capital, which will host the UN event through December 11.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was adopted at the Earth Summit in 1992. It entered into effect on March 21, 1994 and has been ratified by 196 signatories (195 states and the European Union), which constitute the interested parties.
The Conference of the Parties (COP) is the supreme body of the Convention, and meets annually in global conferences to reach agreements to combat climate change.