World leaders write script for a new climate future

Over 150 heads of state and government – the largest group of leaders ever to attend a UN event in a single day – arrived in Paris today to give their public support to the climate change talks.

The nations of the world have gathered 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.

“You are here today to write the script for a new future,” said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. “A future of hope and promise — of increased prosperity, security and dignity for all”.

He says leaders gathering in Paris have the power to secure the well-being of this and succeeding generations.

He has set what he says are the “four criteria for success” – First, the agreement must be durable; Second, the agreement must be dynamic; The third requirement for success is an agreement that embodies solidarity with the poor and most vulnerable; and Fourth, the agreement must be credible.

“The peoples of the world are also on the move. They have taken to the streets, in cities and towns across the world, in a mass mobilization for change. I met with several key civil society groups yesterday. It is clear to me that they have come to Paris filled with energy and emotion – and that they expect each and every one of you to show leadership equal to the test” said Ban Ki-moon.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, 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.

“You have the opportunity, in fact 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 catalyses continuously increasing ambition and action by all,” she said.

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 Celsius.

COP21 President, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, called on governments to step up their efforts, stating that “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.”

Ahead of the Paris meeting, thousands of companies and investors and thousands of mayors and regional governments announced their commitment to the essential economic and social transformation to low-carbon, sustainable growth and development.

Minister Fabius said the conference would serve to highlight the importance of non-state actors within the framework of the Lima-Paris Action Agenda.

During the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, the governments of France and Peru, along with the UN, are organizing a series of high-level events to demonstrate that the transition to low carbon and resilience is under way.

Throughout the eight days of the LPAA, inspirational new commitments will be announced, in action areas ranging from forests and agriculture to clean energy and private finance for climate action.

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