More than 40 countries are backing calls for an international organisation to police governments that fail to act against climate change. It would also fight threats such as global warming, water shortages and the loss of species.
President Jacques Chirac, proposing the United Nations Environment Organisation (UNEO) at a conference at the Elysée Palace yesterday, said: "It is our responsibility. The future of humanity demands it." This comes just days after a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted that rising temperatures could cause droughts, heatwaves and rising seas for more than 1,000 years, even if emissions of greenhouse gases are capped.
"We are coming to realise that the entire planet is at risk, that the well-being, health, safety, and very survival of humankind hang in the balance," Mr Chirac said after talks with politicians, scientists and business leaders.
Not everyone has welcomed the idea of a global body that would define and possibly enforce environmental rules. Key world polluters, including the US, China, India and Russia, are missing from the list of 46 countries that will be meeting in Morocco this spring to take the plan forward.
Mr Chirac expressed his frustration that "some large countries, large, rich countries, still must be convinced". They are "refusing to accept the consequences of their acts", he said.
The Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Andrei Denisov, said that creating a new environment organisation would require too much time and money.