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World future at stake at climate summit.

Summary: World leaders launched an ambitious attempt Monday to hold back rising temperatures, with the United States and China leading calls for the climate summit in Paris to mark a decisive turn in the fight against global warming.

PARIS: World leaders launched an ambitious attempt Monday to hold back rising temperatures, with the United States and China leading calls for the climate summit in Paris to mark a decisive turn in the fight against global warming. In a series of opening addresses to the U.N. talks, heads of state and government exhorted each other to find common cause in two weeks of bargaining to steer the global economy away from its dependence on fossil fuels. French President Francois Hollande said the world was at a "breaking point."

Monday's event was the largest single-day gathering of heads of state or government in history, the U.N. said, highlighting widespread global commitment to the climate fight.

"What should give us hope that this is a turning point, that this is the moment we finally determined we would save our planet, is the fact that our nations share a sense of urgency about this challenge and a growing realization that it is within our power to do something about it," said U.S. President Barack Obama, one of the first to speak at the summit.

The leaders gathered in a vast conference center at Le Bourget airfield. In all, 195 countries are part of the unwieldy negotiating process, with a variety of leadership styles and ideologies that has made consensus elusive in the past.

Main key issues, notably how to divide the global bill to pay for this shift to green renewable energy, are still contentious.

"Climate justice demands that the little carbon space we still have, developing countries should have enough room to grow," said India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a key player because of his country's size and its heavy dependence on coal.

One difference this time may be the partnership between the U.S. and China, the two biggest carbon emitters, who between them account for almost 40 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, according to the World Resources Institute.

Once far apart on climate issues, they agreed in 2014 to jointly kickstart a transition away from fossil fuels, each at its own speed and in its own way.

The U.S. and China "have both determined that it is our responsibility to take action," Obama said after meeting his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the summit.

"Tackling climate change is a shared mission for mankind," Xi responded in his own remarks.

Obama said the two countries would work together at the summit to achieve an agreement that moves toward a low-carbon global economy this century and "robust" financial support for developing countries adapting to climate change.

Flying home to Rome on the papal plane after a visit to Africa, Pope Francis told journalists: "Every year the problems are getting worse. We are at the limits. If I may use a strong word I would say that we are at the limits of suicide."

Most scientists say failure to agree on strong measures in Paris would doom the world to ever-hotter average temperatures, deadlier storms, more frequent droughts and rising sea levels as polar ice caps melt.

Facing such alarming projections, the leaders of nations responsible for about 90 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions have come bearing pledges to reduce their national carbon output, through different measures at different rates.

If a signed deal now appears likely, so too is the prospect that it will not be enough to prevent the world's average temperature from rising beyond 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. That is widely viewed as a threshold for potentially catastrophic changes in the planet's climate system.

Obama called for an "enduring framework for human progress," one that would compel countries to steadily ramp up their carbon-cutting goals and openly track progress against them.

The U.S.-China agreement has been a balm for the main source of tension that characterized previous talks, in which the developing world argued that countries which had grown rich by industrializing on fossil fuels should pay the cost of shifting all economies to a renewable energy future.

The question of how richer nations can help cover the cost of switching to cleaner energy sources and offset climate-related damage must still be resolved.

A handful of the world's richest entrepreneurs, including Bill Gates, have pledged to double the $10 billion they collectively spend on clean energy research and development in the next five years.

"The climate bill has finally come due. Who will pay?" said Baron Waqa, president of the Pacific island nation Nauru.

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Dec 1, 2015
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