The 12-day United Nations talks opened amid a slew of warnings about potentially disastrous warming with increasingly extreme weather phenomena unless humankind changes its atmosphere-polluting, fossil-fuel burning ways.

"What happens in this stadium is not a game. There are not two sides but the whole of humanity. There are no winners and losers, we all either win or lose in the future we make for ourselves," UN climate chief Christiana Figueres told climate negotiators.
"We gather today under the weight of many sobering realities," she added -- the first being the new record of 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere that was reached earlier this year.
"The second is the devastating impact of Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful typhoons to ever make landfall. Our thoughts and our prayers are with the people of the Philippines, Vietnam and South-East Asia."
The UN has set a target of limiting global average warming to two degrees Celsius over pre-Industrial Revolution levels -- at which scientists believe we can avoid the worst effects of climate change.
The world seeks to reach that goal by curbing emissions of invisible, heat-trapping gases from burning fossil fuels which provide the backbone of the world's energy supply on Monday.
Reducing this pollution requires a costly shift to cleaner, more efficient energy, which helps to explain why the UN negotiations have been such a battlefield.

Experts say the 2 C objective, set in 2009, is likely to be badly overshot on current emissions trends. Environmentalists warned about the dangers of delaying action to avert more floods, heatwaves and rising sea levels.

They point to super typhoon Haiyan, which killed more than 10,000 people in the Philippines last week, as a reminder of the risks of extreme weather. A UN scientific panel says cyclones may become more intense in some regions by 2100 as the planet warms.

Global average temperatures have risen by 0.8 degrees Celsius (1.4 Fahrenheit) since the Industrial Revolution and are set to exceed 2C - a target ceiling agreed at a previous UN summit - on current trends, despite a hiatus in the pace of warming so far this century.

In September, the UN panel of climate experts raised the probability that mankind is the main cause of recent warming to 95 percent or "extremely likely" from 90 percent "very likely".

The World Meteorological Organisation said this month atmospheric volumes of greenhouse gases reached a new record in 2012, driven up by growth in emerging economies led by China.


Developed nations are putting most emphasis on spurring economic growth after the financial crisis, rather than making big investments in renewable energies such as wind or solar power. Economic slowdown has - at least temporarily - cut greenhouse gas emissions in many nations.

The US shale boom helped push US carbon emissions to an 18-year low last year, but also shifted cheap, polluting coal into Europe where it is used in power stations.

Many governments, especially in Europe, are concerned climate policies, such as generous support for renewables, push up energy bills for consumers, a major political issue in countries such as Britain.

The Warsaw meeting will also seek ways to raise aid to help developing nations cope with climate change. They have been promised $100 billion a year by 2020, from USD 10 billion a year from 2010-12.

On Monday, aid charity Oxfam estimated that climate aid totalled between USD 7.6 billion and USD 16.3 billion in 2013, but said "murky accounting and a lack of transparency by rich countries" made it hard to know.

Christiana Figueres, the UN climate chief, said Warsaw was a "pivotal moment" when it was still possible to limit rising temperatures to 2C above pre-industrial times. "Global greenhouse gas emissions need to peak this decade," she said.

Hosts Poland said a climate deal should allow countries to define their own emissions targets - from power plants, factories and cars - rather than try to impose them in a global diktat.

"We need flexibility between the countries, that they will promote their own strategies, their own goals," Environment Minister Marcin Korolec said.

Poland uses coal to generate 90 percent of its electricity and has upset some delegates by planning a "world coal summit" about how to cut emissions from coal during the climate talks.

Environmental group Greenpeace projected messages on six Polish coal-fired power plants on Sunday saying: "Climate change starts here!" and "Storms start here!".


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