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COP21: Prince Charles calls for urgent action on climate change at opening of UN conference

Prince Charles has called for world leaders to "act now" on climate change at the opening of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris.

World leaders have gathered in the French capital for the start of crucial talks on climate change after half-a-million people marched in demonstrations worldwide calling for urgent action to curb rising temperatures.

At the opening of the conference, Prince Charles called for urgent action.

He said: "Your deliberations over the next two weeks are not only for today but for generations unborn.

"I urge you to think of your grandchildren, as I do mine, and for those many millions without a voice."

Charles began his keynote speech in the French capital by expressing, in French, his profound horror at the terror attacks two weeks ago which killed 130 people and his untold sympathy for the grieving families and loved ones of those who died.

"My heart is with the courageous French people in their hour of anguish," he said in French.

The Prince then told the summit: "Rarely in human history have so many people around the world placed their trust in so few.

Charles gave the key note speech to delegates at the "COP 21" talks, before going on to receive the Prix Francois Rabelais from the Institut de France, for his commitment to organic farming and protection of the environment.

He has also attended a private dinner hosted by the British Ambassador to France, Sir Peter Ricketts, with leading experts on the environment and development, including former US vice president Al Gore, World Bank president Dr Jim Yong Kim, and Lord Stern, who wrote a key report on the economics of climate change.

Political leaders from 147 countries will address the conference throughout Monday and the summit will see negotiators from 195 countries try to finalise a new climate treaty over the next two weeks.

Prince Charles said that before leaders gathered in Copenhagen in 2009 in an ultimately failed bid to secure a new climate treaty, he had tried to warn the best scientific evidence suggested humanity had 100 months to alter its behaviour "before we risk the tipping point of catastrophic climate change".

Some 80 of those months had passed, he warned, urging the world "we must act now".

"If the planet were a patient, we would have treated her long ago," he said, adding the delegates must start emergency procedures "without further procrastination".

The conference, will, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.

Security has intensified in Paris with major roads into the capital closed and thousands of police and soldiers guarding the hermetically sealed conference venue near Le Bourget airport, north of Paris.

Over 6,000 more officers have been deployed in the city, still reeling from the coordinated attacks on restaurants, a concert hall and the national football stadium in which 130 people died.

On Sunday clashes broke out between some protesters and police in the city with reports around 100 people were arrested.

While in Belfast hundreds gathered in Writer's Square as part of the worldwide demonstration.

Among those taking part was Green Party leader Steven Agnew who said everyone had their role to play in tackling the global problem.

He said: "Our purpose is to send a message internationally that we want a deal in Paris but locally, Northern Ireland has to play its part too. This is an issue that has not gone away.

"It will impact on the people of Northern Ireland, albeit it will impact most on the world's poorest. But, we all need to take action to mitigate this global problem."

Meanwhile James Orr, Friends Of The Earth Northern Ireland director, told the crowd they stood in solidarity with environmental campaigners across the world.

He said: "This event that is happening in Paris is the most decisive event in the history of humanity. Unless we act in 2016 to reverse global warming, we are staring into the face of global genocide."

David Cameron is set to call for a robust deal that shows governments are serious about cutting carbon emissions.

The Prime Minister is joining leaders including US president Barack Obama for the first day of the negotiations, with the aim to securing a global deal to stop "dangerous" climate change.

Mr Cameron is expected to tell gathered leaders and negotiators that the issue of climate change is one that is too big for governments alone to deal with.

And he will say that the conference must support the poorest countries, an issue he says the UK has led the way on by committing £5.8billion in this Parliament, up to 2020.

But the Government has come in for criticism from many quarters in recent months on the home front for curbing support for renewables and energy efficiency measures.

Just days before the conference began, ministers also announced they were axing a £1bn scheme to develop technology to capture and store technology from power stations, despite backing new gas plants.

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