PARIS: December 01, 2015. The leaders of 150 nations meeting at the UN climate conference in Paris have the fate of humanity in their hands.
Whether the outcome sees them wringing them in frustration or grasping their peers' in congratulation, it won't change the facts: a rise of two degree Celsius across the planet will have serious consequences for future food and water security, economic stability and international peace.
Some experts think this process has already begun.
According to World Bank president Jim Yong Kim, climate change may plunge 100 million more people into poverty within 15 years and 43 million will be in Africa.
"Unless decisive climate action is agreed in Paris, climate variability and change will jeopardize Africa's hard-won development achievements and its aspirations for further growth and poverty reduction," said Kim, adding that 40 percent of the continent that's currently growing maize will be barren by 2030.
Speaking at the opening of the conference, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Christiana Figueres paraphrased Winston Churchill from another desperate era, noting never before "has a responsibility so great been in the hands of so few".
Meanwhile leaders from France, Chile, Ethiopia, Germany, Mexico and Canada called on companies and countries to put a price on carbon as they launched their 'Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition' in a bid to overcome the political barriers to more carbon pricing.
President of France Francois Hollande declared that "a company consuming less CO2 should gain a decisive competitive advantage".
International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde added that a successful outcome at Paris would suggest nations can work together for the good of the planet: "The right carbon price should be at the center of this effort. Indeed, given the slump in energy prices, there has never been a better time to transition to smart, credible and effective carbon pricing. Policy makers need to price it right, tax it smart, and do it now."
Of one thing humanity can be sure: time will soon tell whether world leaders used their hands for "decisive action" in Paris, or just sat on them.
- Simon Keeble is the editor of Freightweek.