Our first week delegation of five students, one TA, and one prof hit the ground running this morning. We attended the opening ceremony at which some 150 heads of state have gathered. COP20 President Manuel Pulgar-Vidal gave the closing speech of his presidency, and then passed the gavel to COP21 President Laurent Fabius. After speeches by French President Francois Hollande, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, and Fabius, Prince Charles was tapped as the honorary guest speaker, as Madhavi covered here. After a pause for a group photo (of the heads of state, that is), the next phase of Day 1 of COP21 began. This is the Leaders Summit, at which these 150 heads of state and government have the opportunity to speak to one another about their concerns and their priorities for COP21.
Because so many chose to attend — despite the November 13 attacks on Paris — two plenary rooms are being used for simultaneous speech giving. Our crew sat together to watch President Obama deliver his remarks, after Morocco (which will host COP22) and two spots ahead of President Xi Jinping of China. Now we’re moving on to press conferences and side events about topics ranging from fossil fuel subsidies and REDD+ to women on the front lines of climate change and the launch of a new international solar alliance. Stay tuned!