Record number of leaders expected for Paris COP21 opening

In an exceptional turnout, 150 presidents and prime ministers are set to kick off climate summit in Paris on Monday with a raft of initiatives

India PM Narendra Modi and France president Francois Hollande (Pic: France in India/Flickr)

India’s Narendra Modi and France’s Francois Hollande are among 147 world leaders slated to attend COP21 (Pic: France in India/Flickr)

By Megan Darby in Paris

Solar power, carbon pricing and fossil fuel subsidy reform are on the agenda for 150 world leaders due to kick off Paris climate talks on Monday.

At the outset of two weeks of negotiation, their role is to show political will for a robust global warming pact. It is an unprecedented turnout for any UN summit outside the General Assembly.

Lent an extra poignancy by terrorist attacks in the French capital on 13 November, the day is expected to highlight areas of peaceful cooperation.

Multilateral initiatives will be announced on the fringes of the high level event, at which heads of state have three minutes each to outline their national strategies.

Report: India PM proposes solar power alliance with Africa

Narendra Modi, prime minister of India, is set to call for collaboration to roll out solar power in tropical countries.

Trailing the alliance at a forum of African leaders in New Delhi, he said: “We want to light up lives of our people and power their future.

“But, we want to do it in a way that the snow on Kilimanjaro does not disappear, the glacier that feeds the River Ganga does not retreat and our islands are not doomed.”

Did you know?
An estimated 570,000 people marched in 2,300 climate-themed events in 175 countries across the world this weekend, according to campaign group 350. The figure could rise, as it does not account for demonstrations in Mexico City, Ottawa and Vancouver

New Zealand’s John Key will present UN climate chief Christiana Figueres with a communique on phasing out fossil fuel subsidies.

Endorsed by Morocco, France and Scandinavian countries, the document targets an elusive goal of eliminating incentives for overconsumption of coal, oil and gas.

The International Monetary Fund estimates such support will hit US$5.3 trillion worldwide in 2015.

Report: Germany, Ethiopia, Mexico leaders back carbon pricing

Going further, heads of the IMF, OECD group of rich countries and World Bank will launch a coalition for putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions.

Chile, Germany and Mexico are among the countries backing carbon taxes or trading schemes, to make climate polluters pay.

Not to be left out, business leaders including Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Ratan Tata are trumpeting a multi-billion dollar business push for clean energy research and development.

Under the banner Breakthrough Energy Coalition, they will commit to “bold” investment in innovative technology.

“I am optimistic that we can invent the tools we need to generate clean, affordable reliable energy that will help the poorest improve their lives and also stop climate change,” said Gates in a statement.

In a related initiative, Mission Innovation, US president Barack Obama is seeking to double the country’s clean energy research budget from US$5 billion over five years.

Report: Climate vulnerable governments urge all countries to make tough CO2 cuts

Meanwhile, nations vulnerable to the impacts of climate change will renew calls for a tighter global target than the agreed 2C limit on temperature rise.

Benigno Aquino III, president of the Philippines, is to make the case for a 1.5C warming threshold, to protect people from intensifying weather extremes and sea level rise.

UN disaster risk reduction chief Margareta Wahlstrom and former Ireland president Mary Robinson will also show their support.

Gaziano da Silva, head of the World Food Programme, is joining leaders of eight countries to promote resilience to climate impacts. Peru, Egypt and Angola are among the initiative’s backers.

Crop yields are expected to suffer as temperatures rise and rainfall becomes more variable, without action to develop climate-smart farming practices.

The UK, Germany and Norway will talk up their financial support for forest protection schemes abroad.

Separately, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan says he will use the meeting to rebuild relations with Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

“On Monday in Paris there will be an international climate summit, that can be a chance to repair our relations with Russia. Confrontation will not bring anyone happiness. As much as Russia is important for Turkey, Turkey is important for Russia,” he said in quotes reported by Reuters.

Read more on: COP21 | UN climate talks