All eyes on Paris during the UN COP21 opening ceremony

Written by: Alessia Valentini

195 countries and nearly 150 Heads of State and Government gathered on Monday 30th November, in Paris, for the United Nations climate change conference (COP21) to give their public support and reach a new and universal climate change agreement.

This level of participation makes COP21 one of the largest diplomatic conferences ever organized. It has been described by Laurent Fabius, French Minister of Foreign Affairs and President of COP21, as “a first” for France.

At the opening ceremony of the conference, which was webcast live around the globe, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary, Christiana Figueres, said that the eyes of millions of people around the world are on the governments meeting in Paris. And that this gives them the opportunity and the responsibility to finalize an agreement that enables the achievement of national climate change goals, delivers the necessary support for the developing world, and catalyses continuously increasing ambition and action by all.

“Future generations will judge us for our actions,” said Fabius, in his opening remarks. “In a time when nations share a sense of growing urgency, let’s make COP21 the historic success the world is waiting for.”

Barack Obama, President of the United States at COP21. Credit: A. Valentini

Barack Obama, President of the United States, stated that no nation, large or small, wealthy or poor is immune to climate change. He noted that for all the challenges we face, the growing threat of climate change could define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other before.
“The future is in our hands, and that future is not one of strong economies, nor is it one where fragile states can find their footing. That future is one that we have the power to change. Right here. Right now,” said Obama.

Obama noted that America is doing its share and will reduce carbon emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. Last year, the President set a new target to reduce emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels within tenyears from now.

In her speech, Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, described the agreement that needs to be reached at COP21 as ambitious, comprehensive and binding.

“Today, in Paris, we have to show that what we promised in Copenhagen we will deliver,” she said, explaining that Germany is playing its role by doubling the funding for renewable energy to reduce emissions of 40 percent by 2020.

Her closing remarks were straight to the point.

“Billions of people are pinning their hopes on what we are doing in Paris these days. Let’s not have them lose their hope," said Merkel.

From the statements made at the opening ceremony, world leaders seem to share a common purpose here in Paris, and this is to make the world a better place for our children and the future generations to come.

In Obama’s words, this should be:
 “A world that is marked not by conflict, but by cooperation; and not by human suffering, but by human progress. A world that’s safer, and more prosperous, and more secure, and more free than the one that we inherited. Let’s get to work.”