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‘Rich countries should be the ones coughing up for climate change’

President Jacob Zuma says the globe needs a legally binding agreement to cut carbon emissions.

FILE: President Jacob Zuma. Picture: GCIS.

PARIS - President Jacob Zuma has put cash front and centre in his address to world leaders at the COP21 climate talks in Paris.

Speaking to the largest gathering of heads of state in history, he says the globe needs a legally binding agreement to cut carbon emissions, but one that takes inequality into account.

Common but differentiated responsibility, for years it was sticking a point in negotiations and now it comes down to a matter of money.

Should poor countries have to foot the bill to the damage to their countries that emissions from rich countries have caused? President Zuma says no.

He wants rich countries to scale up their climate finance commitments beyond the $100 billion a year from 2020 that they agreed in Copenhagen.

Zuma says it's a legal obligation to support developing countries, otherwise privileged nations will appear selfish.

Analysts hope debates about cash won't derail the very sensitive talks and prevent a global deal.

At the same time, US President Barack Obama appears to be in the same track hinting in his speech that they might be open to those discussions.

World leaders have called for unity a rejection of terrorism and a strong will to act urgently to end climate change.

Obama told delegates that now is the time for lasting solutions.

"The growing threat of climate change could define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other. What should give us hope that this is a turning point, that this is the moment we finally determine we would save our planet, is the fact that our nations share a sense of urgency about this challenge and a growing realisation that it is within our power to do something about it."

He further acknowledged that the US has also contributed massively to the trouble the world finds itself in today, but vowed to work even harder to stop climate change.

Obama has painted a bleak picture of the world's future that if drastic action is not taken to stop climate change.

"A glimpse of our children's fate if the climate keeps changing faster that our efforts to address it; submerge countries, abandoned cities, fields that no longer grow and even more floods of desperate peoples seeking the sanctuary of nations not their own. That future is not one of strong economies, nor is it one where fragile states can find their footing. That future is one that we have the power to change."

At the same time, United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon says this is a perfect opportunity for world leaders to change how the future.

"We have never faced such a curse, a political momentum like this may not come again. But neither have we encountered as such a great opportunity at this time; you have the power to secure the wellbeing of this and succeeding generations."

PRESSURE MOUNTS FOR LEADERS

The pressure is also mounting as world leaders acknowledge the enormity and gravity of the task ahead of them, with many calling for urgent, binding and sustainable solutions.

French President Francois Hollande says any agreement between countries reached at the end of the conference must be universal and binding.

"Developed countries must take on their historic responsibility. They are the ones who've emitted the most carbon dioxide emission over the years and emerging countries must accelerate their energy transition."

Analysts say they're optimistic that an agreement will emerge, especially since some of the world's economic powers have come to the table.

There's more optimism at these talks than there's been in years.

Obama adds one the greatest enemies they are fighting is cynicism.

Trying to put the demons of the failed Copenhagen negotiations to bed, he acknowledged the responsibility of the United States in contributing climate change and say they will help solve it.

Meanwhile, Prince Charles has warned that we mustn't be the architects of our own distraction.

While Ban says the political momentum of such a global deal may never come again, UN's Christiana Figueres says in the face of threats leaders must stand together in Paris.

AMBITIOUS ATTEMPT TO HOLD BACK THE EARTH'S RISING TEMPERATURES

World leaders have launched an ambitious attempt to hold back the earth's rising temperatures, with the French president saying the world is at "breaking point" in the fight against global warming.

Hollande has told delegates that developed countries must take responsibility.

"All the local leaders, investors, economic and social actors, citizens, even the great thinkers and religions must move forward and know that things have changed this is the key in order to rise up to the climate challenge."

Obama says decisive action and a lasting solution are needed.

"The defiance that proves nothing will deter us from building the future we want for our children. What greater rejection of those who tear down our world, than marshalling our best efforts to save it. The declaration that for all the challenges we face, the growing threat of climate change could define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other."

Meanwhile, the White House has confirmed Obama met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the side lines of the summit in Paris and discussed the Syrian crisis as well as the situation in Ukraine.