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Hollande pledges €2 billion for green energy projects in Africa

Pierre René-Worms | (L to R) French President François Hollande, Chadian President Idriss Deby and French Ecology Minister Ségolène Royal.

French President François Hollande met at the COP21 summit on Tuesday with more than a dozen African leaders facing environmental challenges, from the Sahara encroaching on farmland to disappearing forests and rising sea levels.

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Hollande said France would invest €2 billion through 2020 in renewable energy projects in Africa and to increase the continent's access to electricity.

"The world, and in particular the developed world, owes the African continent an environmental debt," Hollande said.

The meeting highlighted one of the biggest debates in the effort to reach an international accord to fight global warming: How much aid should rich countries give poor ones to help them adapt to climate change and reduce their emissions?

The climate conference began Monday with an unprecedented gathering of world leaders outside Paris, where presidents, prime ministers and princes urged the delegates to build a better planet for future generations.

On Tuesday the negotiations began in earnest, with the key task of figuring out who will pay for everything the leaders said needs to be done.

"You have now started the fundamental work," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told the negotiators. "I implore you to advance on the substance in a way that allows us to respect the strong mandate given by the diverse heads of state and government yesterday."

Developing countries say they need financial support and technology to relocate threatened populations and make their own transition to cleaner energy.

Later on Tuesday, President Barack Obama was meeting in Paris with envoys from island nations hit hard by rising seas and increasingly violent storms, which scientists attribute to climate change prompted by man-made carbon emissions.

With a new fund announced Monday, rich countries pledged a total of $248 million towards that effort. The Obama administration didn't specify where its $51 million pledge would come from; Obama has struggled to persuade the Republican-run Congress to fund his climate goals, amid concerns that his energy plan is unattainable.

The talks, which run through December 11, are aimed at a broader, tougher replacement to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. That treaty required only rich countries to cut their emissions, while this time the goal is for everyone to pitch in.

One of the proposals involves saving the world's forests, which absorb carbon dioxide released by burning oil, gas and coal.

Britain's Prince Charles, indigenous leaders and other dignitaries met Tuesday to call attention to shrinking global forests from South America to Russia and Africa, in part because of illegal logging.

More than 180 countries have pledged to cut or curb their emissions, but scientists say much bigger reductions are needed to limit man-made warming of the Earth to 2° Celsius (3.8° Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial times, the internationally agreed-upon goal.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)
 

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