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UN Climate Conference Begins In Peru

A main road leads into the haze in Beijing, China.

A main road leads into the haze in Beijing, China.

A major UN climate conference has opened in Peru with negotiators attempting to advance a new global agreement on global warming.

Opening the 12 days of discussions in Lima on December 1, UN climate chief Christiana Figueres said, "2014 is threatening to be the hottest year in history and emissions continue to rise, we need to act urgently."

Figueres added, "The fact that oil prices are so unpredictable is exactly one of the main reasons why we must move toward renewable energy which has a completely predictable cost of zero for fuel."

Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Peru's environment minister and the president of COP 20, as the UN Climate Change Conference is known, told attendees: "We want to have all the pieces together to understand that we are changing, the world is changing the paradigm, it is changing the concept of the development and we are orienting our development into sustainable [development], because we need to have sustainable development as the only alternative in this world."

Representatives of 195 countries are to work toward a new climate pact for signing in Paris in late 2015.

The goal is to reach a compromise on reducing greenhouse-gas emissions blamed for global warming in order to limit the increase in global temperature to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. That level is regarded as key to avoiding some of the most dramatic impacts of climate change.

Scientists have expressed mounting concerns that the world's wealthiest countries appear a long way from agreeing the scale of emission reductions that might help avert that level of warming.

The process has been recently boosted by a joint announcement on cutting carbon emissions by the United States and China.

The gathering in Peru is being held under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

A World Bank report in November titled "Turn Down The Heat: Confronting The New Climate Normal" warned that the world is "locked-in" to significant warming:

"There is growing evidence, that even with very ambitious mitigation action, warming close to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by mid-century is already
locked-in to the Earth’s atmospheric system and climate change impacts such as extreme heat events may now be unavoidable," the report stated.

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim says in the report's foreword that "past emissions have set an unavoidable course to warming over the next two decades, which will affect the world's poorest and most vulnerable people the most."

Based on reporting By Reuters, RFE/RL, and dpa