Highlights from the City of Light

COP21 is off to a busy start. Here’s what went down on day one.

The United Nations climate change conference kicked off this morning, and it’s been a busy first day. About 150 world leaders descended on Le Bourget, just northeast of Paris, to negotiate a climate change agreement, making it the largest gathering of heads of state in history. Nearly all of them registered to deliver a statement on climate change this afternoon, using the allotted three minutes to voice what their countries are bringing to the table. Dignitaries including Prince Charles, Ban Ki-moon, and Christiana Figueres also spoke, and the whole group found time to take a “family photo” (aww).

President Obama, after arriving late last night and paying his respects to recent terrorism victims at the Bataclan concert hall in Paris, held individual meetings today with President Xi Jinping of China and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India. Those two nations represent the world’s first- and third-largest emitters, respectively, with the United States in the number two slot. For its part, India today also helped launch an ambitious international solar alliance of 120 countries. Other promising happenings include a $248 million commitment to support the most vulnerable countries, a $500 million iniatiative to help developing countries reduce their emissions, and the launch of "Mission Innovation," which aims to rapidly accelerate clean energy research and development. 

In his remarks in Le Bourget, President Obama acknowledged America’s role in creating this climate problem and our responsibility to be part of the solution. (The United States’ current carbon pledge aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent over the next 10 years.) Of course, stopping the world from overheating will be a group effort. “No nation—large or small, wealthy or poor—is immune,” the president said. “There is such a thing as being too late…. And when it comes to climate change, that hour is almost upon us.”

You can watch the rest of his 14-minute speech here. President Obama ignored the incessant beeps warning that he’d gone over his time limit, but if ever there was a good time to be a little overzealous, it’s now.

This article was originally published on onEarth, which is no longer in publication. onEarth was founded in 1979 as the Amicus Journal, an independent magazine of thought and opinion on the environment. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. This article is available for online republication by news media outlets or nonprofits under these conditions: The writer(s) must be credited with a byline; you must note prominently that the article was originally published by NRDC.org and link to the original; the article cannot be edited (beyond simple things such grammar); you can’t resell the article in any form or grant republishing rights to other outlets; you can’t republish our material wholesale or automatically—you need to select articles individually; you can’t republish the photos or graphics on our site without specific permission; you should drop us a note to let us know when you’ve used one of our articles.