LE BOURGET, France: World leaders opened an historic summit in the French capital on Monday aimed at ending decades of political gridlock and forging an elusive agreement to avert calamitous global warming.
The leaders kicked off 12 days of negotiations in search of a pact that would radically restructure the global economy away from its dependancy on fossil fuels that are blamed for climate change.
More than 150 leaders, including Philippine President Benigno Aquino 3rd, gathered at a sprawling conference center on the northern outskirts of Paris under heavy security after this month’s terror attacks in the city, which appeared to have galvanized commitment for climate action.
President Aquino arrived at the Le Bourget Airport on Sunday. He was met by French officials together with Philippine Ambassador to Paris Ma. Theresa Lazaro.
Scientists warn that, unless action is taken soon, mankind will endure ever-worsening catastrophic events, such as droughts that will lead to conflict and rising sea levels that will wipe out low-lying island nations.
But world leaders have also vowed to forge an ambitious deal to honor the 130 people killed in the November 13 attacks that were claimed by the Islamic State group.
“The fate of humanity is at stake in this conference. After the attacks in France, we have to deal with the urgent priorities and respond to the terrorist challenge but also act for the long term,” French President Francois Hollande said.
In an interview with French daily newspaper “20 minutes,” Hollande added that leaders would meet in Paris “to reaffirm their solidarity with France” and to “assume their responsibilities in the face of the warming of the planet.”
“History will judge the heads of state and government harshly if, in December 2015, they miss this opportunity.”
China raises alarm over rising seas
A new Chinese government report raises the alarm over rising sea levels caused by climate change that could potentially threaten the country’s developed eastern coast, according to state media and The New York Times.
The release of the official report, now in its third edition, came shortly before the UN Conference of Parties (COP21) summit, which aims to strike a global deal limiting dangerous climate change.
China is the world’s second biggest economy but also its largest polluter, estimated to have released between nine and 10 billion tons of carbon dioxide in 2013.
Beijing pledged last year to peak carbon dioxide output by “around 2030” — suggesting at least another decade of growing emissions.
The government report said sea levels off China’s coast have risen 2.9 millimeters annually from 1980 to 2012, according to an article posted on a government-backed website, while glaciers shrank just over 10 percent since the 1970s.
Temperatures are rising at the rate of 1.5 degrees Celsius every 100 years and could jump a further 1.3 to 5.0 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, said the China Climate Change website, which operates under the state planner.
The New York Times said the report, which was compiled under the authority of the Ministry of Science and Technology, spells out “somber scenarios” including threats to infrastructure from increased rainfall and melting permafrost, among the possible fallout from climate change.
“Climate change will make the urban conurbations along the coast the regions most affected by climate change nationwide,” it cited the report as saying.
“Some cities may even face risks of massive disasters that are hard to forecast.”
The report, called “The Third National Climate Change Assessment Report”, cites projections that the sea off eastern China could rise between 40 to 60 centimeters by the end of the century compared to 20th century averages, the newspaper said.
A separate study by US-based research group Climate Central predicted that China would be the country hit hardest by rising sea levels if global temperatures rose by four degrees Celsius.
It estimated some 145 million people live in Chinese cities and coastal areas that would eventually become ocean were warming to be that high.