PARIS — France's top diplomat, who will preside over a year-end Paris summit tasked with inking a climate rescue pact, warned yesterday of looming planetary "catastrophe" if negotiations fail.
Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius's remarks came as separate reports warned of the devastating effects of global warming on the poor and those living in megacities around the world.
"It is life on our planet itself which is at stake," Fabius told journalists as ministers and climate envoys from 70 countries met for pre-summit talks to iron out tough political questions.
With the key UN conference just three weeks away, he also announced that Russia's President Vladimir Putin would attend the November 30 opening.
Russia, a major oil producer, is seen as a deal-maker or -breaker in the years-long attempt to negotiate the world's first truly universal pact to curb climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions.
"There is absolute urgency," said Fabius, to achieve the UN goal of limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius over pre-Industrial Revolution levels.
The UN's climate science panel has warned of an average temperature rise of "four, five, six degrees, if we do not act extremely quickly," he said.
"This would have catastrophic consequences because there would be drought... and colossal migration problems, including problems of war and peace."
Separate reports released on Sunday echoed those concerns.
A World Bank study warned that global warming could elevate levels of disease, ravage crops and push 100 million more people into poverty.
"The poor are more vulnerable to climate-related shocks than wealthier people because they are more exposed, lose more in relative terms, and lack the financial systems and social safety nets that would allow them to better prepare and cope," it said.
Another study by the US-based research group Climate Control, meanwhile, warned that a 2oC rise in temperatures could still pose a "long-term, existential danger to many great coastal cities".
It added that a worse-case scenario of a 4oC rise could particularly affect China, with four of the 10 most devastated cities in that forecast set to be Chinese. — AFP