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Politics New environment minister attends key climate change pre-talks

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hugs Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015 as his new government is sworn in.

The Canadian Press

Canada's new environment minister held talks Sunday with counterparts from a host of countries to lay the groundwork for this month's global climate change summit, as a new international report suggests 100 million more people could be pushed into extreme poverty if effective action isn't taken.

Catherine McKenna, who says Canada is determined to deliver real results, and her fellow ministers will be spending the next three days looking for common ground on key issues in advance of the summit that begins Nov. 30.

"Canada agrees the science is indisputable, and we recognize the need for urgent/greater action that is grounded in robust science," McKenna posted to Twitter on Sunday.

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"Our main goal is to make sure that all human beings can fulfil a healthy, safe sustainable life."

McKenna's talks in Paris come as the World Bank issued a report Sunday saying that climate change could push more than 100 million people into extreme poverty by 2030 by disrupting agriculture and fueling the spread of malaria and other diseases.

About 80 world leaders will be gathering in the French capital to try to reach a binding agreement on reducing greenhouse gases.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to be joined there by most of the premiers and at least some of the opposition party leaders.

Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Sunday that Russian President Vladimir Putin has accepted an invitation to attend the conference.

He says Putin will be among the speakers on the conference's first day, along with President Barack Obama and leaders of India, China and more than 100 others. The Kremlin hasn't confirmed Putin's participation at the so-called COP 21 talks, which aim to reach the most ambitious accord to date limiting emissions that cause global warming.

Organizers expect at least 40,000 people in addition to tens of thousands of activists from environmental, human rights and other groups to attend the Nov. 30-Dec. 11 conference.

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Fabius spoke Sunday during a meeting of foreign and environment ministers to prepare the way for the climate conference's final negotiations.

"The purpose of these three days is to find the road of compromise on as many issues as possible," Fabius told senior officials from more than 70 countries.

One key issue to be discussed is how rich countries can provide financial and other support to help developing countries reduce emissions.

The foreign minister of the Marshall Islands, Tony de Brum, told The Associated Press that "the most important thing that is at stake is the survival of my country. We need to get an agreement that's going to ensure the most vulnerable states will not be forgotten."

The Marshall Islands is among the small island states that fear they will be submerged by rising seas caused by global warming.

The Paris climate conference will gather 196 parties to reach an agreement aiming at limiting the rise in global temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) between pre-industrial times and the end of the century.

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The World Bank report released Sunday highlighted how the impact of global warming is borne unevenly, with the world's poor woefully unprepared to deal with climate shocks such as rising seas or severe droughts.

"They have fewer resources and receive less support from family, community, the financial system, and even social safety nets to prevent, cope and adapt," the Washington-based World Bank said.

How to help poor countries — and poor communities within countries — deal with climate change is one of the crunch issues in talks on a global climate accord that's supposed to be adopted next month in Paris.

Those who say that rich countries aren't doing enough to help the poor said the report added emphasis to demands for billions of dollars in so-called climate finance to developing countries.

"The statistics in the World Bank report are suitably shocking and I hope they force world leaders to sit up and take notice," said Mohamed Adow of Christian Aid. "The Paris deal needs to support the poor and vulnerable communities to cope with unavoidable climate crises better, and to be more resilient to a changed climate."

Despite pledges to rein in emissions of carbon dioxide and other global warming gases, climate change isn't likely to stop anytime soon. Carbon emissions are expected to rise for many years as China, India and other developing countries expand the use of fossil fuels to power their economies.

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But efforts to protect the poor, such as generally improving access to health care and social safety nets, and targeted measures to upgrade flood defences and deploy more heat-tolerant crops could prevent most of the negative consequences of climate change on poverty, the bank said.

"Absent such good development, climate change could result in an additional 100 million people living in extreme poverty by 2030," the report said.

With files from The Associated Press

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