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Fears for key climate summit after Paris attacks

A key climate change conference in Paris is set to go ahead in less than two weeks — despite security concerns after Friday's terrorist attacks that killed 129 people.

Close to 50,000 participants are expected to travel to Paris for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP 21, which some view as the last chance to strike a global agreement on combating climate change. It would be one of the largest international conferences held in France.

French President Francois Hollande told a joint session of parliament on Monday that the conference would go ahead, to "show that the world must stay united against terrorism."


Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister, also said on Saturday that the conference would go ahead, but with enhanced security measures.

"COP 21 must be held. It will be held with reinforced security measures, but it is absolutely essential action against climate change and of course it will be held," he said, in a statement CNBC translated from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs' website.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls told radio network, RTL France, that no head of state has asked for it to be postponed.

However, he added that a protest march set for November 29 in Paris ahead of the conference was now in question and that "sideline" cultural events such as a scheduled concert might be cancelled in order to prioritize security for "negotiators, scientists and journalists."

"Nothing should be done that could endanger, including by crowd movements, the people who come to Paris. If we organize this big event, security forces must concentrate on what is essential," Valls told RTL France.

Florian Otto, head of Europe and Central Asia at risk consultancy, Verisk Maplecroft, said that failing to hold the conference would hand the perpetrators of Friday's attack a "strategic victory."

"Cancelling was not an alternative at any point in time. It would be the admission by the government that they are not confident they are able to guarantee safety in the capital… It would hand them (the terrorists) such a strategic victory," he told CNBC on Monday.

France would nevertheless have called off the event if officials felt they were unable to guarantee delegates' safety, even with extra security measures, Otto said.

"I think that if they had serious doubts that even with throwing in all the resources that they have that they wouldn't be in a position to guarantee security, we would probably not of had a very early message that they are going to do this (hold the event)," he told CNBC.

Nonetheless, he added: "Security isn't absolute. The nature of the threat makes it so difficult to contain — the French security services have disrupted various attacks this year. To some extent the other side only needs to succeed once."

Tina Fordham, chief global political analyst at Citi Research, added that the attacks could see some of the focus of COP 21 redirected from combating climate change to combating terror.

"My sense is that it likely to go ahead amid tightened security, but will end up also serving as an opportunity to address the terrorist threat," she told CNBC on Monday.

— By CNBC's Katy Barnato. Follow her on Twitter @KatyBarnato.