French President Francois Hollande said that “never have the stakes of an international meeting been so high,” as more than 150 world leaders gathered for talks in Paris on a deal to limit man-made emissions and avoid the worst effects of climate change.
Scientists have warned that excess carbon emissions in the atmosphere have caused the planet to warm and set off a range of erratic weather effects, including rising seas and increased likelihood of extreme events such as storms.
More than 180 countries submitted voluntary commitments to reducing carbon emissions before the summit. But even the cumulative effect of these pledges would not be enough to avoid the worst effects of a changing atmosphere.
The United Nations said in October that national assessments would lead to global temperatures of 2.7 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels – well above the 2-degree goal.
“In damaging the planet, we become the architects of our own destruction,” Britain’s Prince Charles said Monday. “Your deliberations over the next two weeks will decide the fate not only of those alive today, but of the generations as yet unborn.”
Negotiators are expected to hammer out the details of the deal until December 11.
The agreement should include a commitment to cap temperature rise at 2 degrees Celsius and 1.5 degrees if possible, Hollande said, calling for a five-year review and revisions based on scientific development.
No country should be left to face climate change alone, the French host said.
As leaders held a moment of silence for the victims of the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris, Hollande said: “I am not choosing between the fight against terrorism and the fight against global warming.”
A changing climate will trigger even more conflict over resources, he said, adding that “essentially what is at stake at this climate conference is peace.”
Issues that plagued the 1997 Kyoto Protocol – which the United States never ratified – could still pose difficulties in reaching a deal, including the relative responsibility of countries that did not contribute to the bulk of emissions in the past but are on track to becoming the biggest polluters.
US President Barack Obama has indicated a desire to reach an agreement despite a recalcitrant Congress, and China has committed to limiting its carbon intensity by 2030.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Obama met on the sidelines of the summit to repeat their willingness to curb emissions.
Obama said: “Nowhere has our coordination been more necessary and more fruitful … As the two largest carbon emitters, we have both determined that it is our responsibility to take action.”
German climate negotiator Kasten Sach said his country will advocate for a control mechanism in a global climate agreement to ensure signatories are meeting their emissions targets.
“The control mechanism will be part of the framework agreement,” Sach said, but added that he doesn’t expect tough sanctions for countries that do not meet their targets to be included in the deal.
The summit will aim to find funding for countries already affected by climate change cope with rising sea levels and more frequent droughts, including programmes meant to incentivize renewable technology and encourage sustainable development.
Governments of major world economies and the World Bank announced more than 700 million dollars in funding for climate change adaptation – with 11 countries pledging nearly 250 million dollars in new money and the World Bank announcing a 500-million-dollar project with four European countries towards incentives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
One sticking point of negotiations is expected to be funding for an annual 100-billion-dollar fund for poorer countries to develop with less reliance on carbon-dependent technology and adapt to atmospheric changes already under way.
Some 20 countries are expected to announce an initiative to double research budgets for renewable energy alongside technology magnate Bill Gates, who has promised private support for the work.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Hollande will launch an international solar alliance to promote solar power adoption globally.
Meanwhile, police said 317 climate protesters were taken into custody Sunday after they violated a ban on marches that was imposed under heightened security measures following the Paris attacks.