, UNITED NATIONS, Sep 23 – The largest gathering of world leaders on climate change opens at the United Nations on Tuesday amid calls for action to put the planet on course toward reversing global warming.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is hosting the summit of 120 leaders, the first high-level gathering since the Copenhagen conference on climate change ended in disarray in 2009.
Diplomats and climate activists see the event as crucial to building momentum ahead of the Paris conference in late 2015 that is to yield a deal on reducing greenhouse gas emissions after 2020.
But no-shows from the leaders of China, the world’s biggest polluter, and India, the number three carbon emitter, are casting a cloud over the event.
“Climate change is the defining issue of our time. Now is the time for action,” said Ban on the eve of the meeting opening at UN headquarters.
Ban is to kick off the summit alongside former US vice president and climate crusader Al Gore, Hollywood celebrity Leonardo DiCaprio, Chinese actress Li Bingbing and Nobel Peace Prize winner Rajendra Pachauri, head of the UN climate panel.
Leaders then take turns at the podium, from President Barack Obama representing the world’s second biggest polluter to Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga of the Pacific island-nation of Tuvalu, which faces the prospect of being wiped out by rising sea waters.
China is sending Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli while India will be represented by Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar.