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Leaders reminded about COP21’s purpose

Organisations are trying to help negotiators understand the reality of what climate change looks like.

FILE: The African continent will be one of the hardest hit by climate change, partly because its countries have less money. Picture: NASA

PARIS - It's both Africa Day and Women's Day at the COP21 climate summit in Paris and on the sidelines of the talks, various organisations are trying to remind negotiators why they're there.

The African continent will be one of the hardest hit by climate change, partly because its countries have less money to adapt to changes and its rural agriculture-dependent populations are heavily dependent on the weather.

Richer countries are already committed to providing $100 billion a year by 2020; in Paris, the question is how far that annual sum should rise and, most especially, how or whether big emerging economies should contribute.

There is also still disagreement on what kind of spending - public or private, new money or old - will count toward that target. Developing nations are resisting attempts by rich countries to fold in existing climate-related spending to reach the $100 billion threshold.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told delegates that "outside these negotiating halls, there is a rising global tide of support for a strong, universal agreement".

"The world is expecting more from you than half-measures and incremental approaches," Ban told the negotiators, calling for "a transformative agreement".

Meanwhile, organisers sounded hopeful that they could reach a deal by the end of the week, even if there was little indication of how differences over funding in particular would be resolved.

"We have to respect the goals we set for ourselves," said French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who is presiding over negotiations that are supposed to conclude with a signed agreement on 11 December."

He spoke as senior government ministers, including US Secretary of State John Kerry, began arriving in Paris for the last lap of a four-year process to bind rich and poor countries in a deal to curb greenhouse gas emissions beyond 2020.

It is already certain that the national emissions pledges made ahead of Paris will not be enough to prevent global temperatures rising past a dangerous threshold of 2 °C over pre-industrial times.

But there is at least a growing sense that there will be more money for the developing countries least able to give up fossil fuels to build prosperity, or most vulnerable to the increased floods, droughts, storms and rising sea levels that climate change will bring.

Note: Additional reporting by Reuters