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Environment

France officially mobilises for the COP21 Paris Climate Change conference

media French President François Hollande at the opening of the event highlighting France's commitment to climate change, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, 10 September 2015 Reuters/Charles Platiau

They’re off. France on Thursday waved the starting flag for the Climate Change Conference due to open on 30 November. Marking the COP21 kick-off, the French prime minister confirmed a move to help reduce the use of coal globally.

It was an important day in Paris with the French presidency launching the programme to make COP21 a success.

"The stakes are enormous," said French Prime Minister Manuel Valls. " The whole of humanity is concerned; the survival of our planet depends on it.”

He went on to say that the first seven months of 2015 were the hottest on record for the world’s surface and that those who suffer the consequences of extra-violent weather conditions are the most vulnerable people.

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France is one of about 60 countries who have submitted their pledges to the COP21 so far, out of 195 expected to attend and hopefully sign a new international accord aimed at capping global warming by two degrees above pre-industrial levels.

One of the main bones of contention among the conference's participants is fundamental: whether the target level should be two degrees or one-point-five.

At the mobilisation launch on Thursday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that it’s "vital to reach an agreement".

Underscoring France’s commitments at the COP21 preparations launch, Energy and Environment Minister Ségolène Royal, then Valls, announced that France is going to end subsidies allocated to firms exporting coal power plants which do not have carbon dioxide capture and stock mechanisms.

Valls pointed out that this move helps to achieve the French government's main commitments, helping to divest from so-called ‘dirty fuels’ and to invest instead in clean, renewable energies.

The measure will notably affect French company Alstom. Royal explained however that Alstom will be eligible, like other companies, to receive subsidies for renewable energy projects.

Ecology NGOs in France have for a long time criticised the coal plant export subsidies because coal is a huge producer of green-house gas, one of the major factors blamed for global warming and the worst fossil fuel polluter.

So France has begun its countdown to the 12-day COP21, due to begin in less than three months.

Although earlier this week French President François Hollande had admitted that there is a risk they could fail in their bid to get a new international accord at the conference, he threw his weight behind the event by acknowledging efforts being made all over the world, in all levels of society and all fields, to find innovative ways to be part of the climate change event in Paris.

He added: "France wants to set an example. We have already taken some steps like those mentioned by the ministers … but we have to speed up our efforts to become a carbon-free economy ... such as taxes to discourage production of CO2, recycling to encourage a positive change in habits and to further stimulate alternative energies."

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