The Eyes of the World are on Paris. The nations of the world gathered on Monday in Paris to reach a new and universal climate change agreement, in the knowledge that they have already delivered an almost universal set of national responses to meet the long-term climate challenge before the conference even begins.
Charles, Prince of Wales opened the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change calling on negotiators to think of the legacy left behind.
“Your deliberations over the next two weeks will decide the fate not only of those alive today, but also of generations yet unborn. So I can only urge you to think of your grandchildren, as I think of mine, and of those billions of people without a voice; those for whom hope is the rarest of sensations; those for whom a secure life is a distant prospect,” presented Prince Charles.
“Most of all, I urge you to consider the needs of the youngest generation, because none of us has the right to assume that “for our today they should give up their tomorrow.”
Over 150 heads of state and government arrived at the conference venue on Monday to give their public support, the largest group of leaders ever to attend a UN event in a single day.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, which was webcast live around the globe, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres said that the eyes of millions of people around the world were on the governments meeting in Paris, not just figuratively but literally.
She said: “You have the opportunity, in fact the responsibility, to finalise an agreement that enables the achievement of national climate change goals, that delivers the necessary support for the developing world and that catalyses continuously increasing ambition and action by all.”
Ms. Figueres said that the past year had been a turning point and that after many years of hard work, the world was finally seeing that the direction towards a low-carbon, resilient future was irreversible.
“This turning point is truly remarkable, but the task is not done. It is up to you to both capture this progress and chart an unequivocal path forward, with a clear destination, agreed milestones and a predictable timeline that responds to the demands of science and the urgency of the challenge.”
On the eve of the COP21 conference, 184 countries covering around 95 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions had delivered their national climate action plans to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). These pledges constitute a good foundation, but are not enough to keep the world below the internationally agreed maximum global average temperature rise of 2 degrees C.
The Alliance of Small Islands States (AOSIS) is calling for global average temperature to be limited to below 1.5 degrees for island survival.
COP21 President French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called on governments to step up their efforts:
“The stakes are too high, and the menace of climate change is too great for us to be content with a minimalistic agreement. The Heads of State and Government who have come to Paris have come to express the voice of ambition.”
The 21st Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC ends on 11 December, 2015