SPECIAL COP21 – World leaders deliver hopes and promises at the opening of the climate summit

COP21 officially opened on Monday (Nov. 30) with unusual plenaries gathering around 150 heads of states and governments. During the Leaders Event, organised by the French government to generate political momentum ahead of the negotiations, world leaders delivered 5-minutes speeches all day long in the two plenary halls at Le Bourget site, north of Paris.

French President Francois Hollande opened the plenary stressing that the new climate agreement should be “universal, binding and differentiated”.

Almost all the statements started remembering the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris on Nov. 13. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon asked participants to hold a minute of silence at the beginning of the summit. Ki-moon urged leaders “to choose the path of compromise and consensus”, as “bold climate action is in the national interest of every single country represented at this conference”.

Leaders presented their respective efforts and pledges to reduce GHG emissions and address the worst impacts of climate change, generally acknowledging a urgent need for a global climate agreement able to keep rising temperatures below the 2°C threshold and to cope with climate impacts.

US President Barack Obama said : “As the leader of the world’s largest economy and the second largest (greenhouse gas) emitter …the United States of America not only recognises our role in creating this problem, we embrace our responsibility to do something about it.”

Many leaders called for a solidarity-based approach, highlighting that the poorest and most vulnerable countries currently bear the highest burden of climate change effects.

“It is important to respect the differences among countries, especially developing countries,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said, highlighting the need to allow different countries to develop their own solutions to climate change problems.

Ecuador President Rafael Correa called for an international court for environmental justice to be set up. “It is not understandable that we have courts to force countries to pay financial debts but we do not have a court to enforce environmental debts” he said.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced Australia will ratify the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, that runs from 2013 to 2020, when the new climate agreement is expected to enter into force.

Majority of the speakers stressed that current national climate pledges, or INDCs, are not sufficient to achieve the 2°C target and called for a clear long term goal to be included in the Paris agreement and pre-2020 strategies to reduce emissions.


(Image: France’s President Francois Hollande opening the Leaders event at COP21, Le Bourget, Paris, Nov. 30, 2015. Photo credit: COP Paris/Flickr)