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Stalemate at the Bonn climate talks has prompted the well-respected group of politicians and public figures known as The Elders, to urge world leaders to clear debate roadblocks before the critically important Paris talks in December.

The Conference of Parties (COP) in Paris is the final remaining debate that can lead to new climate change and greenhouse gas emissions policy to come into effect from 2020 onwards, once the all-important Kyoto Protocol – currently ratified by 192 UN member nations – has winded down. Created as a result of the highly successful Rio 1992 summit, the Kyoto Protocol commits State Parties to reduce greenhouse gas emissions due to the premise that climate change exists, but also that anthropogenic forcings have, and will continue to cause the speeding up of the natural process.

The talks in Paris cannot afford to become the new Copenhagen; amid soaring public outcry and media focus, the 2009 Copenhagen climate talks failed to provide a solid foundation for a new treaty to combat greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. 2015 is the year of climate and, as such, The Elders called on world leaders to act; “You have a decisive role to play in charting the course of history.”

Those set to lose most are some members of the Pacific Island Forum (PIF). The Forum, founded in 1971 to increase communication between countries within the Pacific Ocean, has become a critical cluster of nations at most risk to flooding due to sea level rise. The President of PIF, as a result, has been a long-standing figure to warn, often highly emotively, that these nations will soon lose everything; land, settlements and agriculture, which will in turn create a surge of climate refugees.

The Forum will be meeting this week, ahead of the Paris summit in December, and it is thought that Australia and New Zealand will be in the firing line due to respective lack of limiting greenhouse gas emissions by both countries.

Australia, in particular, has been working in partnership with China to enlarge many of its existing coal mines, as well as open new, larger mines due to heavy reliance on coal trading with China. This relationship has come under strain recently due to the instability of the Chinese Yen as well outcry from the industry due to coal testing procedures of China that have led to the country rejecting some imports of Australian coal. Running simultaneously is the factor that China is attempting to seek fuel self-reliance in coal. New research has also pointed to the fact that the Australian coal industry is at serious risk of decline and collapse in the next decade due to changing interests and cheaper availability elsewhere in the free market.

Moving forward towards the Paris summit, several factors may stand in the way of a robust climate change agreement, but it is clear – due, in part, to extensive research findings that climate change is indeed occurring at a faster rate than previously thought – that the main community to lose out if a climate agreement is not created in Paris, is humanity.

World leaders must realise that the time to act is now. If this is not established early on, we may be looking at another failed Copenhagen-scenario in December.

This, may well become the final nail in the coffin for so many around the world in the struggle to survive.

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