Barack Obama has told crucial UN climate talks in Paris that the negotiations represent an act of defiance after the barbaric attacks in the city two weeks ago in which 130 people were killed.
Offering his condolences and pledging solidarity with the people of “this beautiful city” he said, “We have come to Paris to show our resolve … to protect our people, and to uphold the values that keep us strong and keep us free. We salute the people of Paris for insisting that this crucial conference will go on.”
150 heads of state and government are attending the first day of the two-week talks, instructing their negotiating teams on coming to a deal. Each leader has been allotted three minutes for a short speech.
The Paris talks are seen as a last chance for coordinated global action on climate change under the UN. If these talks fail to produce an agreement, the world will be left without an international commitment to prevent dangerous levels of global warming.
Obama said that the attendance of world leaders was a “rejection of those who would tear down our world”, and drew parallels between the ravages of climate change and terrorism. “[We want] a declaration that, for all the challenges we face, climate change will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other.”
He warned of some of the likely effects of climate change: “Abandoned cities; fields that no longer grow; political disruptions; conflicts; desperate peoples seeking sanctuary in nations not their own.”
The Paris conference could change that, he said: “This future is one that we have the power to change – right here, right now.”
“One of the enemies we will be fighting at this conference is cynicism – the presumption that we can’t do anything about climate change,” he added.
Poor nations must receive particular help, he urged. “We must reaffirm our commitment that the resources will be there [in financial assistance for the developing world]. We must make sure these resources [of climate finance] fall to countries that need help … and help vulnerable populations rebuild stronger after climate related disasters.”
A cause for hope, he said, was that a sense of urgency was growing among nations, as well as an increasing realisation that it is within our power to tackle climate change.
Read more: The Guardian