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French President, activists gear up for COP21 amid high security

 French President Francois Hollande, holds a press conference after the Climate Change special session held during CHOGM (Commonwealth heads of Government meeting), at the Raddison Golden Sands Hotel, Ghajn Tuffieha, Malta, Friday.
French President Francois Hollande, holds a press conference after the Climate Change special session held during CHOGM (Commonwealth heads of Government meeting), at the Raddison Golden Sands Hotel, Ghajn Tuffieha, Malta, Friday. AP Photo/Rene Rossignaud

PARIS – French President Francois Hollande met with environmental groups Saturday, pushing for an ambitious global deal to reduce man-made emissions blamed for global warming – with emphasis on helping developing countries adapt to a changing world.

The talks in the Elysee Palace came as President Barack Obama, the leaders of China, Russia and more than 140 other countries prepare to converge on Paris to launch two weeks of high-stakes talks.

Leaders and climate negotiators from 196 countries meeting at the U.N. talks Nov. 30-Dec. 11 will try to hash out the broadest, most lasting deal to date to slow global warming.

Saturday’s meeting and the talks are taking place under extra-high security after Islamic extremists killed 130 people in Paris on Nov. 13.

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Security was already planned to be tight even before the attacks, given the throng of government leaders attending.

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French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Saturday that just under a thousand people thought to pose security risks have been banned from entering the country since tighter border controls were enforced earlier this month in the run-up to the COP21 climate talks and in the wake of France’s deadliest attacks in recent memory.

Later Saturday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius symbolically handed over the “keys” to the climate conference to the U.N. climate change agency, which will oversee the two-week talks. Fabius and Hollande have travelled the world this year and used France’s diplomatic weight to try to rally international support for a tough and binding deal.

“The keys to the (conference) are now in the hands of the U.N., a symbolic key of hope,” Fabius tweeted after handing over a giant key to Christiana Figueres, head of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

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The changing of the guard for the climate conference means that U.N. security now takes over the watch inside the vast conference site outside Paris, while 2,800 French forces guard surrounding zones during the two-week conference.

The last global climate treaty, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, required only rich countries to reduce emissions and the U.S., the world’s biggest emitter, didn’t take part.

READ MORE: Trudeau meeting Indian PM to discuss climate change ahead of COP21

The talks are happening with France in a state of emergency and thousands of troops and police fanned out to ensure security after the Paris attacks.

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A big march by environmental activists was cancelled because of the security measures. Activists are still planning other small actions around France and other countries.

Greenpeace anchored a hot air balloon next to the Eiffel Tower on Saturday bearing the words “rise up for renewables.”