UN Climate Chief Christiana Figueres: "Never before has a responsibility so great been in the hands of so few, the world is looking to you, the world is counting on you."
Prince Charles: "On an increasingly crowded planet, humanity faces many threats but none is greater than climate change."
French President François Hollande: "Never, I say never, have the stakes of an international meeting been so high, for this is about the future of the planet and the future of life."
President Obama: "Our task here in Paris is to turn these achievements into an enduring framework for human progress. Not a stop gap solution but a long-term strategy that gives the world confidence for a low carbon future.
Let's secure an agreement that builds in ambition. Targets that are not set for each of us but by each of us."
Obama's use of the words 'long-term strategy' and 'agreement' is significant. A few weeks ago, Secretary Kerry made clear that the United States would not sign a legally binding treaty. And yet Obama acknowledges he's "come here personally as the leader of the world's largest economy and second largest emitter [of greenhouse gases] to say the USA not only recognizes our role in creating this problem, we embrace our responsibility to do something about it."
Russian President Vladimir Putin does call for a legally binding agreement.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel: "This is the first time that we have an opportunity to attain this goal of an agreement. We are more than aware that the small island nations feel this is not sufficient."
Bolivian President Evo Morales echoes calls for stopping actions that threaten our very existence and lays makes an "urgent appeal to the Governments of capitalist powers of the world for them to stop destroying our planet irreversibly" and says "mother earth is getting dangerously close to its end... the capitalist systems responsible for that."
This was just a selection of quotes expressing standpoints. One major divide is between developed and developing countries. The former are most at fault for creating the climate crisis and most in need 0f serious committed action. The latter are the victims of climate change and the most in need of mitigation. (Mitigation is a climate change technical term that means 'actions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions at their source or actions that remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.') Yet developing countries need energy in order to continue their growth. I suppose COP21 offers an opportunity to look at development in a more energy-clean way. Fossil fuels - think coal - is still the energy source of choice. Like many, I thought our reliance on coal went the way of the steam train - a lovely nostalgic Hogwarts Express. It's a complicated situation, a Gordian Knot if you will, where COP21 cannot just turn the planet's thermostat down 2ᵒ with a flick of a switch. The task at hand is to move beyond rhetoric and put the common good ahead of national interests.