COP21: Leaders speak out on perils of climate change

Heads of state, including Barack Obama, David Cameron, Vladimir Putin, Chinese president Xi Jinping, and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi travelled to Paris amid tight security after the November 13 terror attacks.
COP21: Leaders speak out on perils of climate change

The UN requested that each leader speak for three minutes, although many spoke for considerably longer about the perils the planet faces due to climate change.

  • French President François Hollande: “I am not choosing between the fight against terrorism and the fight against global warming. We must leave our children more than a world free of terror, we owe them a planet protected from disasters. The greatest danger is not that we aim too high and we miss but that we aim too low and only do that.”
  • Christiana Figueres, executive director of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change: “Never before has a responsibility so great been in the hands of so few.”
  • President Barack Obama, who spoke for 14 minutes, told delegates: “We are one of the first generations to feel the impact of climate change and one of the last to do something about it.”
  • Prince Charles: “If the planet were a patient, we would have treated her long ago. You, ladies and gentlemen, have the power to put her on life support, and you must surely start the emergency procedures without further procrastination.”
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel: “This is a question of environmental necessity, but also of economic common sense... our very future as humankind hinges on this. Billions of people are pinning their hopes on what we achieve here in Paris.”
  • President Vladimir Putin: “Climate change has become one of the gravest challenges that humanity is facing.”
  • Chinese President Xi Jinping said the presence of world leaders in Paris was proof that “terrorism can not hold back mankind’s efforts to address climate change and pursue a better future”.

Leaders of smaller nations also took the chance to stress the importance of addressing climate change. Anote Tong, president of Kiribati, a small island state endangered by rising sea levels, said Fiji has offered to accommodate the people of Kiribati if climate change “renders our homes inhospitable”.

Baron Waqa, president of the small island state of Nauru, said: “We have a choice: We can pay in human misery or pay investing in a more equitable, resilient, and sustainable future.”

Bolivian President Evo Morales said: “Saving Mother Earth to save life — that is our endeavour.”

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