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Riot police deployed as 150 world leaders gather for Paris climate change talks

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is expected to call for an agreement that limits global temperature increases in his speech this afternoon.

Police officers patrol outside the venue of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Le Bourget, outside Paris.
Police officers patrol outside the venue of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Le Bourget, outside Paris.
Image: Associated Press

WORLD LEADERS TODAY launch a whirlwind day of talks in Paris, aimed at forging an elusive agreement to stave off global warming.

The summit kicks off nearly a fortnight of talks intended to end two decades of international bickering with a pact that would limit emissions of the greenhouse gases blamed for climate change.

Wide Paris-area highways usually packed with commuters have been cordoned off ahead of the conference, with riot police vans and plainclothes officers stationed around the capital and the northern suburb of Le Bourget.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, along with Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly and Minister for Communications Minister Alex White, are joining 150 world leaders for the talks, which are taking place in a venue bristling with security and protected by some 2,800 police and troops.

His speech this afternoon is expected to call for an agreement that limits global temperature increases and highlight Ireland’s commitment to reaching EU targets for emissions reductions.

Negotiators will hold a minute of silence to remember the victims of the Paris attacks when the event officially opens at 10am Irish time.

“The fate of humanity is at stake in this conference. After the attacks in France, we have to deal with the urgent priorities and respond to the terrorist challenge but also act for the long term,” French President Francois Hollande said.

Scientists warn that unless action is taken soon, mankind will endure ever-worsening catastrophic events such as droughts that will lead to conflict and rising sea levels.

Stumbling blocks 

The United Nations has hosted annual summits to tackle the vexed global warming issue since 1995, but all previous efforts have floundered, primarily due to deep divisions between rich and poor nations.

Many poor nations insist rich countries bear the most responsibility for tackling the problem, because they have burnt the most fossil fuels since the Industrial Revolution on their way to prosperity.

But the United States and other developed nations insist more must be done by China, India and other emerging countries, which are burning increasing amounts of coal to power their fast-growing economies.

Potential stumbling blocks in Paris range from finance for climate vulnerable and poor countries, to scrutiny of commitments to curb greenhouse gases and even the legal status of the accord.

Still, important progress has been made ahead of the meeting. One of the key successes has been a process in which 183 nations have submitted voluntary action plans on how they would tackle global warming.

UN climate chief Christiana Figueres said these provide the architecture for more ambitious efforts that could eventually limit global warming to less than two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) from pre-Industrial Revolution levels.

Two degrees C is the threshold at which scientists say the worst impacts of global warming will be inevitable.

The US and France said 20 countries will also pledge today to double their investments in clean energy.

Additional reporting by Catherine Healy.

© – AFP, 2015

Read: At least 100 arrested at Paris climate change protest

Read: Irish tourists anxious about Brussels and Paris trips

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