MILAN U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged global leaders on Saturday to agree an "ambitious" deal at a climate conference in Paris in December, saying global warming was the biggest threat to global food security.
"We need every country on the same page, pushing an ambitious, durable and inclusive agreement that will finally put us on the path toward a global clean-energy future," Kerry told an audience at the Milan Expo, where the focus is on "Feeding the planet" and new approaches to sustainable food.
He said extreme weather patterns - with 19 of the 20 warmest years on record occurring in the past two decades - meant the world must act now, in a coordinated way.
A climate deal would boost the confidence of businesses to invest in low-carbon, clean energy alternatives, and "hopefully move the private sector to be one of the great agents of action in addressing the climate challenge," he said.
Kerry said the migrant crisis in Europe, caused by Syrians and Africans fleeing conflict, would pale in comparison to the mass migration that intense drought, rising sea levels and other impacts of climate change were likely to bring.
Just before war erupted in Syria, the country had faced its worst drought on record, Kerry said, forcing as many as 1.5 million people from farms to cities and intensifying the political uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2011 that eventually led to the war.
"I'm not suggesting the crisis in Syria was caused by climate change ... but the devastating drought made a bad situation a whole lot worse," he said.
The U.N. climate conference of is designed to reach a plan to cap steadily rising greenhouse gas emissions to avert a dramatic rise in extreme weather.
Earlier, Kerry held talks with his Italian counterpart in which they discussed Europe's refugee crisis, violence in the Middle East and Russia's role in Europe and the Syrian crisis.
(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Kevin Liffey)