World Leaders Convene Paris Climate Conference, Global Initiatives Announced

Joining global leaders at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) in Paris today, U.S. President Barack Obama praised hosts of the conference for their decision to move forward with the event after the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris.

"We salute the people of Paris for insisting this crucial conference go on; an act of defiance that proves nothing will deter us from building the future we want for our children,” Obama said, according to a live broadcast of a Leaders Event, where Heads of State and Government gave statements at the start of the conference.

Negotiators from nearly 200 countries are convening in Paris from Nov. 30 through Dec. 11 with a goal of reaching a global climate agreement.

Live blogging from the event, David Waskow, International Climate Director for the World Resources Institute said: “Today, President Obama clearly conveyed that he understands what’s at stake, especially for the most vulnerable communities around the world. He underscored that the United States is fully committed to leading by example in the fight against climate change at home and here in Paris. His call for cooperation, not conflict, is one that will resonate around the world.”

President Xi Jinping of China, speaking during the Leaders Event, called COP21 a “new starting point.” Xi said that global leaders should create a future of win-win cooperation and “reject the narrow-minded mentality of a zero-sum game.”

In his speech, Xi highlighted China’s post-2020 climate commitment, which includes adoption of new policy measures to increase low carbon transportation; creation of a nationwide carbon trading market; and support for clean energy expansion in developing countries. Xi said countries should strive for increased dialogue and mutual learning and exchange best practices in order to advance a global climate commitment. He added that countries also should be allowed to move forward with their own climate solutions that best suit their respective situations.

According to a statement from the UNFCCC, 184 countries covering about 95 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions had delivered their national climate action plans by the eve of the conference. UNFCC said that, while the pledges provide a solid foundation, they are not enough to keep the global average temperature from rising above 2 degrees Celsius.

New Climate Initiatives

On Monday, Germany, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, working in conjunction with the World Bank Group, launched a $500 million initiative that will find new ways to create incentives aimed at large-scale cuts in greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries, according to a UNFCC statement.

Called the Transformative Carbon Asset Facility, the initiative will help developing countries implement their plans to cut emissions by working with them to create new classes of carbon assets associated with reduced greenhouse gas emissions, including those achieved through policy actions.

The facility will measure and pay for emission cuts in large scale programs in areas like renewable energy, transport, energy efficiency, solid waste management and low carbon cities. This initiative is planned to start operations in 2016 with an initial expected commitment of more than $250 million from contributing countries. In addition, the facility will remain open for additional contributions until a target of $500 million is reached. It is expected that the new facility’s support will be provided alongside $2 billion of investment and policy-related lending by the World Bank Group and other sources.

Also on Monday, French President Francois Hollande and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi are expected to launch an international solar alliance to help promote greater use of solar energy in 121 nations.

Lead image credit: World Resources Institute

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