Talks aimed at sealing a deal to avert catastrophic climate change opened in Paris yesterday, with 150 world leaders issuing an urgent call for action to limit global warming and shift to cleaner sources of energy.
The French hosts and the United Nations formally opened one of the most widely anticipated environmental conferences in history and one of the largest diplomatic gatherings.
The two-week talks are meant to end with a global deal that sets out clear steps to dial back mankind's deep dependence on polluting fossil fuels. Emissions from coal, oil and gas are the main drivers of climate change. The gases from burning these are heating up the planet, triggering more extreme weather and rising sea levels that threaten economies and livelihoods.
"Here in Paris we will decide the very future of the planet," French President Francois Hollande said, urging leaders and delegates to aim high for the best outcome. "Billions of human beings are watching us."
Leaders, including US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping, arrived under tight security, with 2,800 security personnel guarding the venue at Le Bourget airfield on the northeastern edge of the French capital. Outside, traffic was diverted and police patrolled on horseback.
Leaders attending the summit observed a minute's silence for the 130 people killed in the Paris terror attacks on Nov 13. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon thanked France for its "courageous" decision to host the meeting little more than two weeks after the deadly assault.
The leaders are in Paris to try to push for agreement on an ambitious climate deal after more than two decades of often bitter talks. The French hosts are hoping the leaders' presence will be just the shot in the arm needed.
In all, 184 nations have submitted climate action plans to the United Nations and these will form the foundation of a new pact that aims to put the world on a path to limit global warming to no more than 2 deg C.
The climate action plans, plus strong calls for action from Mr Xi, Mr Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, all backed by plans to cut emissions and boost green energy investment in their home countries, have greatly bolstered the UN climate talks process ahead of Paris.