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Nations pledge climate action, obstacles remain to summit – France

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Image: French President Francois Hollande (C), French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius (L) and French Ecology Minister Segolene Royal (R) meet with representatives of NGOs specialized in environmental issues at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, November 28, 2015. REUTERS/Etienne Laurent/Pool

By Alister Doyle
PARIS (Reuters) – Almost all governments have outlined plans for fighting global warming beyond 2020 in a positive sign for resolving a string of obstacles at a U.N. climate summit starting on Monday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Saturday.

So far this year, 183 of 195 nations have issued long-term plans for tackling climate change, meant as building blocks for a Paris accord, with a flurry of more than a dozen in the past week including from South Sudan, Kuwait, Yemen and Cuba.

“This is radically new,” Fabius told a news conference of the almost universal involvement, including by countries such as Cuba which was among a handful that blocked a global deal at the last, failed, summit in Copenhagen in 2009.

Governments hope the summit will end in a deal that marks a turning point away from rising dependence on fossil fuels since the Industrial Revolution, shifting towards cleaner energies such as wind or solar power.

The national plans, including a Chinese commitment made in June to peak its rising carbon dioxide emissions by 2030, cover about 95 percent of world emissions, the United Nations said.

Before this year, plans for action have been dominated by developed nations in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

Fabius said the high number of submissions was encouraging before the summit, to be attended by about 140 world leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, leader of Europe’s largest economy, welcomed the Chinese commitment.

But she said the overall proposed targets for reduction were not enough to limit rising temperatures to a U.N. goal of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) to avert more floods, extinctions of animals and plants and rising sea levels.

“That means we need a follow up process and that, in my view, must be binding,” she said.

A train carrying Germany’s environment minister to the Paris talks was held up for two hours by protesters who chained themselves to the railway tracks at Frankfurt station on Saturday, a police spokesman said.

In France, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said authorities had put 24 green activists under house arrest ahead of the climate talks, using emergency laws put in place following the Paris shootings.

Fabius said there were still many hurdles to a deal at the Nov. 30-Dec. 11 conference, ranging from climate finance to developing nations beyond an agreed goal of $100 billion a year by 2020 or how to set a long-term goal to shift away from fossil fuels this century.

“You have positive elements and others that need to be resolved,” Fabius said after handing the keys of the sprawling

Le Bourget conference centre to Christiana Figueres, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat.

The summit will be held in tight security after the attacks in Paris by Islamic State two weeks ago that killed 130 people. Even on Saturday, searches and identity checks were more thorough than usual at U.N. climate conferences.

Current plans would put the world on track for a warming of anywhere from about 2.7C to 3.5C (4.9F to 6.3F) by 2100.

(Editing by Dominic Evans)

Copyright 2015 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.

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