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Obama urges climate deal as U.N. summit conference open in tense Paris

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PARIS:(APS)Nov 30,2015 — President Obama urged his fellow world leaders on Monday to reach a landmark deal to curb global warming before it dooms the planet.

“I come here personally as the leader of world’s biggest economy and second biggest emitter to say that America not only acknowledges its role in climate change but embraces doing something about it,” Obama said.

Speaking at the opening session of a United Nations conference attended by 196 nations, he said the “old” arguments for inaction on (climate change) had been broken.

“One of the enemies we will be fighting at this conference is cynicism. The notion we can’t do anything about climate change,” Obama said.

The conference, which is scheduled to conclude on Dec. 11, aims to reach an accord for reducing man-made greenhouses gases that cause global warming.

Some 151 world leaders converged on the exhibition halls at Le Bourget Airport just outside the French capital amid extraordinarily tight security.

Paris remains on edge in the wake of the Nov. 13 coordinated terrorist attacks by Islamic State militants in Paris that killed 130 people.

Opening the event on Monday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that negotiators had only days to finalize an agreement. He said that when the conference ends, he wants to be able to say “our mission is accomplished.”

U.N. climate chief Christina Figueres said in her opening remarks that “never before has a responsibility so great been in the hands of so few. The world is looking to you.”

In his speech, Obama said that he saw “the effects change first hand in Alaska, where the sea is already swallowing villages and eroding shorelines” and “where glaciers are melting at a pace unprecedented in modern times.”

He called his summer trip to Alaska a “preview of one possible future.”

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The president added that “we know the truth, that many nations have contributed little to climate change but will be the first to feel its most destructive effects. For some, island nations, climate change is a threat to their very existence.”

David Waskow of the World Resources Institute, an environmental organization, said that Obama’s speech clearly conveyed what’s at stake, particularly for the most vulnerable communities around the world.

“He underscored that the United States is fully committed to leading by example in the fight against climate change at home and here in Paris. His call for cooperation not conflict is one that will resonate around the world,” Waskow said.

Obama arrived in Paris late Sunday night when he paid a surprise visit to the Bataclan theater where 90 people were killed in the attacks on Nov. 13. He placed a white rose at a memorial at the scene.

In his address, he praised Paris for carrying on with the conference despite the attacks and said there was no greater rejection to those who wanted “to tear down the world.”

Earlier on Monday he held bilateral talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Obama emphasized the importance of China-U.S. efforts to fight climate change. Their countries are the two biggest greenhouse gas producers.

“Nowhere has our coordination been more necessary and more fruitful”, he said.

China’s president, like Obama, used his speech at the summit to acknowledge that, as the world’s largest emitter, it needed to support developing countries financially and technologically to combat global warming.

French President Francois Hollande connected the fight against global warming to the fight against extremism.

“What is at stake with this climate conference is peace,” he said at the opening of the summit.

“The fight against terrorism and the fight against climate change are two major global challenges we must face,” he said.

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