US president Barack Obama has called the global climate talks an “act of defiance” against terrorism that proves the world stands undeterred by Islamic State-linked attacks in Europe and beyond.
Mr Obama used his speech to more than 150 world leaders to salute Paris and its people for “insisting this crucial conference go on” just two weeks after attacks that killed 130 in the French capital.
He said leaders had converged to show resolve to fight terrorism and uphold their values at the same time.
“What greater rejection of those who would tear down our world than marshalling our best efforts to save it,” Mr Obama said.
His remarks came at the start of two weeks of make-or-break negotiations to finalise a sweeping global agreement to cut carbon emissions and hopefully stave off the worst effects of climate change.
Mr Obama exhorted leaders here to fight the enemy of cynicism – “the notion we can’t do anything” about the warming of the planet.
After sketching dire threats of submerged nations, abandoned cities and ever-worsening flooding and natural disasters, Mr Obama insisted that grim future “is one that we have the power to change.”
He urged leaders to “rise to this moment,” invoking the late Martin Luther King jnr’s observation that there is such a thing as being too late to a cause. “That hour is almost upon us,” he said.
Efforts to secure a climate deal have been hampered by a long-running dispute about whether developing nations share the same burden as industrialised nations that have historically polluted much more. The US and other nations have insisted that all countries chip in under the new agreement.
“No nation – either wealthy or poor – is immune to what this means,” Mr Obama said as he described spiralling effects of climate change if left unchecked.
Mr Obama met president Xi Jinping of China, which has started taking aggressive action to curb emissions, and planned a similar meeting later in the day with India’s prime minister Narendra Modi.
Mr Obama also privately met Russian president Vladimir Putin. The US had been cautiously optimistic about closer cooperation with Russia in fighting the Islamic State group, but those hopes were dampened after US ally Turkey shot down a Russian plane it said entered its airspace from Syria.
Earlier, the Prince of Wales told world leaders humanity faces no greater threat than climate change, as he issued a rallying call for them to take immediate action to tackle rising temperatures.
The prince urged the leaders to “think of your grandchildren, as I think of mine”, the billions of people without a voice and the youngest generation as they try to secure a new global deal.
He their actions would determine the fate of present and future generations.