High-level climate talks have begun in Paris with the goal of signing a long-term deal to reduce global carbon emissions.
More than 150 world leaders have converged to launch the two-week talks.
Peruvian Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar Vidal declared this year’s meeting open.
Strong action on carbon emissions is essential for multiple reasons, said Mr Vidal, who hosted last year’s UN climate conference in Lima.
Vidal said a deal would show the world that countries can work together to fight global warming as well as terrorism.
Christiana Figueres, the head of the UN’s climate change negotiations, addressed delegates at the start of the summit.
“Never before has a responsibility so great been in the hands of so few,” she said.
“The world is looking to you. The world is counting on you.”
And the incoming president of the meeting, French foreign secretary Laurent Fabius, said one of his guiding principles over the next 11 days was transparency.
COP 21 – the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties – will see more than 190 nations gather in Paris to discuss a possible new global agreement on climate change, aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the threat of dangerous warming due to human activities.
The talks are taking place amid tight security, two weeks after attacks in Paris claimed by the so-called Islamic State (IS) group.
Negotiators from 195 countries will try to reach a deal at the meeting, known as COP21.
This year, world leaders are attending the start of the two-week meeting to give impetus to the talks.
Some 150 heads of state, including US President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, have arrived at the summit.
The last major meeting in Copenhagen in 2009 ended in failure.
Most of the discussions will revolve around a new deal that would limit global warming to 2C (3.6F) above pre-industrial levels.
Assessments of the more than 180 national plans that have been submitted by countries suggest that if they were implemented the world would see a rise of nearer to 3C.
Major points of contention include:
- Limits: The UN has endorsed a goal of limiting global warming to no more than 2C over pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. But more than 100 poorer countries and low-lying, small-island states are calling for a tougher goal of 1.5C.
- Fairness: Developing nations say industrialised countries should do more to cut emissions, having polluted for much longer. But rich countries insist that the burden must be shared to reach the 2C target.
- Money: One of the few firm decisions from the 2009 UN climate conference in Copenhagen was a pledge from rich economies to provide $100 billion (93 billion euros) a year in financial support for poor countries from 2020 to develop technology and build infrastructure to cut emissions. Where that money will come from and how it will be distributed has yet to be agreed.
Among those attending the talks is the broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough. He said he was not confident that the Paris talks would produce a deal to tackle the “hideous problem” of climate change.
“We know the consequences of a rise of temperature, what it will do for the oceans, for example,” he told the BBC.
“Increasing temperature of the oceans will cause havoc amongst the fish stocks and similarly increasing the temperature of the Earth is causing the spread of deserts.
“The problems of a rise in temperatures are huge; it has to be avoided at all costs.”
The Prince of Wales said that humanity faces no greater threat than climate change, as he issued a call for immediate action to tackle rising temperatures.
NEO Web Desk