U.N. climate chief: Countries acting for economy, not planet

Why agree to a climate change deal?
Why agree to a climate change deal?

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Story highlights

  • Tuesday is the second day of the COP21 climate change summit
  • Countries know that battling climate change is in their interest and not just a moral responsibility, Christiana Figueres says
  • That makes this conference "fundamentally different" from all others before it, she says

(CNN)Leaders gathered in Paris to forge a deal on climate change are acting out of economic self-interest, not a desire to "save the planet," U.N. Climate Chief Christiana Figueres told CNN's Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday.

"Let us be very clear," she said. "They're doing it for what I think is a much more powerful political driving force, which is for the benefit of their own economy. And I think that is really the story here.
"They have understood that this is actually in their own interest. There is nothing more powerful than you, me or any country working in their own interest."
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Tuesday marks the second day of high-level talks at what could prove to be the most important climate summit ever held, "COP21."
One hundred fifty world leaders are gathered on the outskirts of Paris; in total, 195 countries are represented.
The crux of the talks rest on the balance of commitments from developed and developing countries. Developed countries, which polluted massively on their path to prosperity, are trying to ensure that developing countries -- most importantly China and India -- follow an environmentally stable path to development.
"What we do know is that there is extraordinary commitment on the part of (the) Chinese leadership to bring their emissions down, to reduce their consumption on coal," Figueres said.
"Yes, of course they have huge coal consumption now; that is their baseline, and they're working away from that and down from that."
The recognition by countries that battling climate change is in their self-interest, and not just some moral responsibility, is what makes this conference "fundamentally different" from all others before it, she said.