By Britta Schmitz
PARIS, Nov. 30 – Paris is hosting one of the biggest international conferences ever held on French territory, the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) on climate change.
COP21 kicked off on Nov. 30 with the arrival of 151 world leaders. The conference started with statements of heads of state and government and various high-level meetings around mitigating climate change and its impact on our environment.
“Distinguished delegates, the eyes of the world have been on Paris for weeks. Now the eyes of millions of people around the world are on you, not just figuratively but literally. You have the opportunity, in fact you have the responsibility, to finalize an agreement that enables the achievement of national climate change goals, that delivers the necessary support for the developing world and that catalyzes continuously increasing ambition and action by all,” Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said in her opening address at COP21.
One of the high-level meetings was hosted by UN Secretary General Ban-ki Moon. Together with world leaders he demonstrated the importance of building resilience and an adaptive capacity to the impacts of climate change. Ban-ki Moon and 13 members of the UN system launched the new initiative “Anticipate, Absorb, Reshape” to build climate resilience that will mobilize financing and knowledge over the next five years.
“We need the world to know that we are headed to a low-emissions, climate-resilient future, and that there is no going back. The national climate plans submitted by more than 180 countries cover close to 100 per cent of global emissions. This is a good start,” Ban-ki Moon said in his speech at the opening of the COP21 leaders summit. “Even a 2-degree rise will have serious consequences for food and water security, economic stability and international peace. That is why we need a universal, meaningful agreement here in Paris.”
Another high-level event on the opening day was hosted by French President François Hollande. In cooperation with the World Bank Group, heads of state and government from France, Chile, Ethiopia, Germany, Mexico and Canada declared their support for high carbon pricing around the world to boost investment for a more sustainable future.
“The goal is to gradually set a sufficiently high carbon price around the world to encourage better behaviour,” Hollande said in his statement at the media event. “Carbon pricing is an essential tool to allow the economic stakeholders to change their choices for investment and to go faster towards the transition that we recommend and that we need. It’s one of the ways, this tool, to reduce and to mitigate the greenhouse gas emissions.”
Some 45,000 participants will be in Paris for the conference, among them 3,000 journalists. The aim of COP21 is to reach a binding global agreement against climate change and to maintain global warming below 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.
On Nov. 28, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius symbolically handed over the keys of Paris-le Bourget to Christiana Figueres. The exhibition center of Le Bourget has now officially become a UN territory for the coming two weeks of the conference, Nov. 30 to Dec. 11. These two weeks will show if world leaders can meet their ambitious goal of finding a global agreement which can be implemented around the world starting from 2020.
“We need action from everyone, everywhere. Climate change carries no passport; it is happening everywhere and affects all countries, rich and poor. Raise your voices. There is no Plan B because we do not have Planet B. Everyone has a role to play, we can make a difference,” Secretary General Ban-ki Moon said in a video address on the role of COP21, underlining the role of world leaders as well as civil society.
Photo by: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas