World 'losing battle' to curb climate change, warns Macron

Henry Samuel

The world is "losing the battle" against climate change, French President Emmanuel Macron warned dozens of leaders on Tuesday at a summit in Paris aimed at jump starting efforts to curb global warming.

Mr Macron's sobering statement came amid claims in the UK that the French leader is seeking to turn Paris into the world's leading green finance capital while Brexit talks continue.

Lib Dem Sir Ed Davey, a former Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, urged ministers to back the Bank of England's task force on climate finance related disclosure and bring in new corporate requirements on their fossil fuel assets in order to "tackle this threat and protect London".

Business Secretary Greg Clark brushed aside his concerns as he argued Britain "leads the world in climate finance", adding that Theresa May was promoting the availability of green finance in the UK at the summit.

Some 127 heads of state, leaders of institutions, charities and businesses gathered yesterday in the French capital to maintain momentum in the wake of President Donald Trump's recent decision to pull the US out of the 2015 Paris climate accord. Mr Macron dubbed the move "very bad news" and "agressive".

Theresa May attends the plenary session of One Planet Summit, in Boulogne Credit:  Etienne Laurent/ EPA

Also present, Theresa May chimed in that the Paris accord was an "historic agreement" that was "right morally but also economically".

In a rebuttal to Mr Trump's claims it was bad for business, the Prime Minister said: "You don't have to choose between cutting emissions and growing an economy…We choose both."

But in his opening remarks at the "One Planet" summit, Mr Macron said: "We're not moving quickly enough. We all need to act."

The world was, he added, "nowhere near" being able to honour a pledge to keep temperatures rises to 1.5C to 2C, and the planet was heading for up to a 3.5C increase at present.

Without a "shock (shift) in our own production and development methods, we won't manage it," he warned in an earlier interview in Le Monde newspaper.

Co-chaired by World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the summit focused on how public and private financial institutions could stump up more funds and how to get corporate giants to embrace green policies.

Some 225 investment funds managing more than $26 trillion in assets pledged to pile pressure on the world's 100 largest corporate greenhouse emitters to curb pollution and disclose climate-related financial information. The group includes the California Public Employees' Retirement System, the largest US public pension fund.

Mr Kim said the bank would stop financing oil and gas projects within two years while the European Commission unveiled €9 billion worth of investments targeting sustainable cities, energy and agriculture for Africa and EU neighbourhood countries.

Arnold Schwarzenegger arrives at the Elysee Palace for a lunch as part of the One Planet Summit on December 12 Credit: Aurelien Morissard/Getty

The gathering ended with the unveiling of 12 international projects that will inject hundreds of millions of dollars in efforts to curb climate change.

These include a programme for eight US states to develop electric vehicles, an investment fund for the hurricane-hit Caribbean and money from Bill Gates' foundation to help farmers adapt to climate change. They also aim to accelerate the end of the combustion engine.

While Mr Trump was not invited and the official delegation kept a low profile, a string of prominent Americans who insisted the US remained committed to the Paris accord.

Among them were screen superstars Leonardo Di Caprio and Arnold Schwarzenegger, former California Governor, who said: "The United States did not drop out of the Paris agreement. Donald Trump got Donald Trump out of the Paris agreement."

Former US Secretary of State John Kerry said that 38 states have legislation pushing renewable energy and 90 major American cities support the Paris accord, accounting for 80 per cent of its population. "We're going to stay on track," he said.

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the private sector coalition called "America's Pledge," that promises to honour goals set in 2015, "now represents half of the US economy".

Mr Bloomberg also said he hoped Mr Macron was right when he suggested he might be able to change Mr Trump's mind, which was the mark of an "intelligent, courageous person".

"Hope springs eternal," he said.

Failing that, California Governor Jerry Brown told the US president to "get out of the way" and let the rest of the world deal with the problem.

Developing nations, meanwhile, warned that the rich were lagging with a commitment dating back to 2009 to provide $100 billion a year by 2020 to help their green transition.

"The missing piece of the jigsaw is the funding to help the world’s poorer countries access clean energy so they don’t follow the fossil fuel-powered path of the rich world," said Mohamed Adow, charity Christian Aid’s lead on climate change.

The summit once again placed Mr Macron in the global limelight as French commentators said he was seeking to claim the mantle of the world's "Mr Climate".

By contrast, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was once labeled the "climate chancellor" for her efforts to curb global warming, faced domestic criticism for failing to attend the summit.