The COP21 climate change conference kicked off today in Paris with an impassioned rallying cry from President Barack Obama. Obama told world leaders that the UN climate conference could be a “turning point” for the planet on climate change, an issue that he described earlier this year as the “defining threat of this century.” Obama pledged that the U.S., which he says is partly to blame for climate change, would take a lead in fixing the perceived problems by reducing emissions to 26-28% below 2005 levels within 10 years.
Nearly 200 negotiators from member nations have convened at COP21, where they will work towards forging a deal to limit global warming to a threshold of two degrees Celsius over the next two weeks. Obama commended Paris for moving ahead with the meeting despite the recent terrorist attacks, and called the climate talks an “act of defiance” in the wake of tragedy. Drawing parallels between the effects of climate change and terrorism, Obama urged the 150 world leaders in attendance to work together, and to help finance poorer nations that are believed to be the most at risk of climate change effects.
“Here in Paris we can show the world what is possible when we come together, united by a common effort and a common purpose,” Obama said. Governments won’t be alone in the push. Privately funded initiatives and public-private partnerships, like the Bill Gates-led Breakthrough Energy Coalition and Mission Innovation, will spur global clean energy innovation to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. More than half a million people around the world have also pledged their support for action this weekend in a series of climate change marches that spanned cities from Sydney to Stockholm.
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