The opening day of COP21 heard 147 world leaders pledge their commitment to combat climate change.
The mood of the meeting was determined and President Hollande of France which is hosting the meeting said: “We are living a historic day. Never before has a conference hosted this many authorities from so many countries. And yet never—never—have the stakes of an international meeting been so high. Your presence raises a great hope—which we must not disappoint. Billions of people are watching what we do.”
Although the vast majority of leaders recognized the need for urgent and sustained action, the most impassioned voices came from Small Island States on the front line of climate impacts, whose very existence is threatened by the rising ocean.
A series of Island leaders called for deep cuts to prevent temperature rise above 1.5 degrees, to save their homes, people, cultures and fragile marine ecosystems. Calling on Leaders to make proper provision for those at the sharp end of a climate change crisis they did not create, and to ensure robust cuts in emissions, Prime Minister Sopoaga of Tuvalu said “If we can save Tuvalu, we can certainly save the world.”
Sea level rise was mentioned in a number of speeches with President Obama of the US talking about the ocean ‘swallowing entire villages’ but there was no recognition of the need to protect the vital services of the ocean or to reflect it at the core of climate business with the same attention paid to forests.
Prime Minister Bainimarama of Fiji, which is in talks with neighboring Islands to relocate their entire populations as climate impacts bite deeper, said that the Islands were vulnerable to the encroaching seas.
Organisers are aiming to agree the substance of the new agreement this week before moving into the detail in week two.
Ocean NGOs are calling for the ocean to feature on the agenda of future climate negotiations, a special IPCC report on the ocean and recognition for coastal and marine adaptation needs in climate finance.
Watch Prime Minister Sopoaga of Tuvalu's speech here