COP21 has now begun and there doesn't appear to be any doubt as to the importance of the Conference, with François Hollande stating that "the fate of humanity is at stake," whilst Prince Charles, in his address to the delegates this morning, said that climate change was the greatest threat facing humanity.
This morning at the Opening Ceremony, Laurent Fabius was formally elected as President of the Conference. He, along with François Hollande and Ban Ki-moon, proceeded to kick off the Leaders Event before short speeches were given by all the 147 attending world leaders, from the President of Senegal to the President of the United States.
Whilst the arrival of the leaders, who will only stay at the Conference for one day, should provide a boost to proceedings, the task ahead will not be easy. The negotiating text still stands at more than 50 pages, filled with areas of disagreement. Further, there are growing concerns that the potential agreement is not ambitious enough with the 48 members of the least developed countries group saying that anything more than a 1.5ºC temperature increase would endanger their populations. This was echoed by World Bank president Jim Yong Kim who warned that even global warming of 2ºC will have drastic consequences.
Despite this, there have been some encouraging announcements from both governments and private individuals. Under Mission Innovation, a group of 20 countries, including the US, France and India, will seek to double their investment in clean-energy research over five years. France and India will also announce a global alliance to bring together 100 solar-rich countries to rapidly expand the availability of solar energy. At the same time, President Obama has announced a $20 billion per year clean technology initiative involving governments and entrepreneurs such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, and 37 of France's largest companies are to provide €45 billion over the next five years for research and development into renewable energy.
There is clearly a lot of support for the Conference on the ground too, with climate change rallies taking place in the French capital. Our colleagues in Paris, Yann Beckers and Rachel Booth, tell us that due to the increased number of visitors "the metro has been even more cosy than usual but spirits are high with Parisians welcoming this opportunity to host a very worthwhile event."
Tomorrow will welcome the start of the formal discussions.