“History Is Calling” Ban Ki-moon Tells Leaders As Paris Climate Talks Officially Begin

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The vital Paris climate talks are now underway, though modelling submitted before the conference raises doubts about whether the nations gathered can achieve their stated goal. Thom Mitchell reports from Paris.

“I’ll be frank,” French President Francois Hollande said on officially opening two weeks of global climate negotiations in Paris on Monday. “To resolve the climate crisis, good wishes and declarations of intent will not be enough”.

“We are on the brink of a breaking point,” he said. “Paris must be the start of a far-reaching change. We can no long consider nature as a commonplace, inexhaustible pool of resources.”

It was characteristic of the urgency the world’s most influential figures in the struggle to curb carbon emissions are taking to the negotiations now officially underway at a sprawling 18hectare conference centre in the suburb of Le Bourget, on Paris’ outer fringe.

There is broad consensus on what’s required for the critical summit to be considered a ‘success’, and there is a sense of confidence that the action leaders like Hollande are saying is required will be achieved.

“The agreement must be universal, differentiated and [legally]binding. Developed countries must take their historical responsibilities. They are the ones who for years emitted the largest amount of greenhouse gases,” Hollande said.

Despite the theatrics of international diplomacy, however, it’s clear the Paris talks will not achieve their primary goal of binding countries to action that would keep the rise in average global temperatures below the two degrees above pre-industrial levels the world agreed is ‘dangerous’ at the Copenhagen summit in 2009.

According to the most recent figures from the United Nations, commitments from 183 countries, which were released ahead of the Paris climate talks, will at best only stem the rise in average global temperatures to 2.7 degrees.

The Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon said governments “need to go much faster, [and]much further, if we are to limit the rise in global temperatures to two degrees”.

He urged the 150 national leaders who have now flown into the summit to make statements later today and “choose the path of compromise and consensus and, if necessary, flexibility”.

“Bold climate action is in the national interest of every single country,” Ki-moon said. “The time for brinksmanship is over: let us build a durable climate regime with a clear route of the road that all countries can agree to follow. Paris must mark a decisive turning point.”

In order to be a success, Ki-moon said, Paris must be long-lasting and send a clear signal to markets; be dynamic enough to “adapt to changes that arise in the global economy without it being necessary to renegotiate the agreement continually”; and ultimately, produce “an agreement that involves solidarity with the poor and vulnerable”.

The French Foreign Minister – who today becomes the President of the conference known as the twenty-first Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) – said the lives of millions of the world poorest and most vulnerable hinge on the talks’ success.

“I remember a woman in Bangladesh – she was very dignified, but tired – who had had to move nine time because of flooding, and she asked me if COP21 was going to change that,” Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said.

He also joined Ki-moon in arguing that a mechanism to ratchet up countries’ ambition every five years was a vital outcome for the talks, a call which Australian Environment Minister Greg Hunt has also endorsed in the lead up to the event.

“History is calling, [and]I urge you to answer it with courage and vision,” Ki-moon said.

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Thom Mitchell

Thom Mitchell is New Matilda's Environment Reporter.

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