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World Leaders Seek Climate Change Agreement

President Barack Obama (L) meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping during their meeting on the sidelines of the COP21, United Nations Climate Change Conference, in Le Bourget, near Paris, Nov. 30, 2015.

President Barack Obama (L) meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping during their meeting on the sidelines of the COP21, United Nations Climate Change Conference, in Le Bourget, near Paris, Nov. 30, 2015.

Representatives from more than 150 countries are meeting in Paris to try to reach an agreement on climate change.

The world leaders are debating ways to reduce emissions from fossil fuels -- like oil and gasoline -- to slow the rise of the Earth’s temperature.

The U.N. weather agency says the average global temperature will rise by 1 degree Celsius. The U.N. wants to keep the global temperature from rising by more than 2 degrees Celsius.

The leaders will be joined by 40,000 delegates and organizers from 130 non-governmental organizations.

Unlike earlier U.N. climate meetings, the world leaders will arrive first. They will create a framework for negotiators to try to reach an agreement.

On Monday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the world leaders that the meeting “must mark a decisive turning point.” He told them they have "the power to secure the well-being of this and succeeding generations.”

He said, “you are here today to write the script for a new future, a future of hope and promise of increased prosperity, security and dignity for all. We need the world to know that we are headed to a low-emissions, climate-resilient future and there is no going back.”

Before the climate change meeting in Paris began, President Barack Obama met with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Obama said the two countries agree on what is needed to slow global warming. He said that includes lowering carbon emissions and giving money to developing nations to help them make changes.

He said, “As the two largest economies in the world and the two largest carbon emitters, we have both determined that it is our responsibility to take action, and since our historic joint announcement of our post-2020 climate targets in Beijing last year, more than 180 countries have followed in announcing their own targets. So our leadership on this issue has been absolutely vital.”

The U.S. has promised to reduce emissions up to 28 percent by 2025. China has said its emissions will not increase after about 2030.

As the meeting begins, Beijing and other parts of China have had some of the worst air pollution conditions of the year. The air quality reached an orange-level alert. That is the second highest alert level for air pollution.

The U.S., China and India produce about half of the world’s emissions of carbon dioxide, a gas that keeps heat in the atmosphere. Scientists said carbon dioxide is a leading cause of global warming.

French President Francois Hollande says it will not be easy for the world leaders to reach an agreement. He says he is not sure if any agreement can be enforced. He is also worried about whether small countries have enough money to put in place measures to reduce their emissions. And he is not sure countries can be monitored to ensure they are meeting their promises to limit emissions.

This year, 183 countries have released long-term plans to deal with climate change. But experts believe the negotiations at the Paris meeting and other international meetings over the next two weeks will be difficult.

In 2009 in Copenhagen, rich and developing countries differed on how to limit global warming. They failed to reach an agreement.

On Sunday, hundreds of thousands of protesters throughout the world called for global environmental controls. In Paris, activists gathered during a time of strict security following the Islamic State terrorist attacks last month that killed 130 people.

Peaceful protests became violent. Police fired tear gas at some demonstrators. More than 200 protestors were detained.

Concerts, demonstrations and a People’s Climate March were planned. Many people were expected to gather at them. But they were cancelled after the terrorist attacks.

France says about 2,800 police officers and soldiers are guarding the conference. It said 6,300 other security forces will be deployed in Paris. French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said almost 1,000 people believed to be threats to security have been refused entry into France.

I’m Mario Ritter.

Aru Pande reported this story from Paris; Chris Hannas and VOA Science and Environment Correspondent Rosanne Skirble contributed reporting from Washington. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted their reporting into VOA Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.

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Words in This Story

fossil fuel – n. a fuel such as coal, oil, or natural gas made from dead plants or animals

framework – n. the basic structure of something

decisive – adj. able to make choices quickly and confidently

turning point – n. able to make choices quickly and confidently

well-being – n. the state of being happy, healthy, or successful

succeeding – adj. coming after something; coming or happening at a later time

script – n. a plan for what is going to be done or said in a particular situation

headed – v. to go in a specified direction or toward a specified place

emissions – n. something sent out or given off

resilient – adj. able to become strong, healthy, or successful again after a challenge

vital – adj. extremely important

monitor – v. to watch, observe, listen to or check over time

tear gas – n. a gas that stings the eyes and makes them tear; used especially by the police or military to separate large groups of people

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