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France warns: 'Life on our planet is at stake'

The Local · 9 Nov 2015, 08:21

Published: 09 Nov 2015 08:21 GMT+01:00

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France's top diplomat, who will preside over a year-end Paris summit tasked with inking a climate rescue pact, warned Sunday
of a looming planetary "catastrophe" if negotiations fail.

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius's remarks came as separate reports warned of the devastating effects of global warming on the poor and those living in megacities around the world.

"It is life on our planet itself which is at stake," Fabius told journalists as ministers and climate envoys from 70 countries met for pre-summit talks to iron out tough political questions.

With the key UN conference just three weeks away, he also announced that Russia's President Vladimir Putin would attend the November 30th opening.

Russia, a major oil producer, is seen as a deal-maker or -breaker in the years-long attempt to negotiate the world's first truly universal pact to curb climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions.

"There is absolute urgency," said Fabius, "to achieve the UN goal of limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-Industrial Revolution levels.

The UN's climate science panel has warned of an average temperature rise of "four, five, six degrees, if we do not act extremely quickly," he said.

"This would have catastrophic consequences because there would be drought... and colossal migration problems, including problems of war and peace."

'Existential danger'

Separate reports released Sunday echoed those concerns.

A World Bank study warned that global warming could elevate levels of disease, ravage crops and push 100 million more people into poverty.

"The poor are more vulnerable to climate-related shocks than wealthier people because they are more exposed, lose more in relative terms, and lack the financial systems and social safety nets that would allow them to better prepare and cope," it said.

Another study by the US-based research group Climate Control, meanwhile, warned that a 2C rise in temperatures could still pose a "long-term, existential danger to many great coastal cities".

A global deal to prevent worst-case-scenario warming is meant to be inked by ministers at the end of a November 30th-December 11th Conference of Parties (COP21) in the French capital.

Story continues below…

It will be opened by UN chief Ban Ki-moon and some 100 heads of state and government including US President Barack Obama, China's Xi Jinping, Narendra Modi of India -- and now also Putin.

The three-day ministerial "pre-COP" from Sunday to Tuesday must seek political convergence on key issues still dividing nations, to avoid a repeat of the 2009 Copenhagen summit which ended without a binding global pact.

The Paris agreement will be underpinned by national pledges to curb greenhouse gas emissions from burning coal, oil and gas.

Ministers will base their discussions in the coming days on a rough draft of a deal compiled by rank-and-file diplomats over years of tough negotiations in the UN climate forum.

Ministers of all the negotiating blocs gathered in Paris on Sunday, including top envoys from major carbon emitters China, the United States, the European Union, India, Brazil, Russia and Saudi Arabia.

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