December 7, 2009

Climate Conference Kicks Off Today In Copenhagen

Monday marked the beginning of the biggest and most important U.N. climate change conference in history, as diplomats from 192 nations meet to discuss and hopefully agree upon the best deal to protect the world from potentially calamitous climate change brought on by global warming.

The two-week Copenhagen conference is the climax of two years of contentious negotiations after a series of promises by rich and emerging economies to curb their greenhouse gas emissions.

The conference's opening ceremonies began with a short sci-fi film featuring children of the future facing an apocalypse of tempests and desert landscapes if world leaders failed to act today.

The nations are meeting to discuss major issues that have yet to be resolved.

"The key to an agreement is finding a way to raise and channel public and private financing to poor countries for years to come to help them fight the effects of climate change," said conference president and Denmark's former climate minister Connie Hedegaard.

She said that if governments miss their chance at the Copenhagen summit, a better opportunity might never come.

World leaders hope to reach a deal that aims to wean the world away from fossil fuels and other pollutants to greener sources of energy.

The summit also seeks to transfer hundreds of billions of dollars from rich to poor countries every year over decades to help them adapt to climate change.

If such agreements cannot be reached, climate experts believe the Earth will face the consequences of ever-rising temperatures, leading to the extinction of plant and animal species, the flooding of coastal cities, more extreme weather events, drought and the spread of diseases.

Some 110 heads of state and government will attend the final days of the conference, according to Denmark's prime minister.

President Barack Obama's decision to attend the end of the conference, not the middle, was taken as a signal that an agreement was getting closer.

Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an U.N. expert panel, said the evidence that the world needs early action to combat global warming is now overwhelming.

In recent weeks leading up to the conference, a controversy emerged over e-mails pilfered from a British university that global warming skeptics say show scientists have been conspiring to hide evidence that doesn't fit their theories.

However, Pachauri defended climate research and said the recent incident of stealing the e-mails of scientists at the University of East Anglia shows that some would go to the extent of carrying out illegal acts perhaps in an attempt to discredit the IPCC.

Negotiations over cutting greenhouse gas emissions have gone on for two years now with only recent signs of breakthroughs regarding new commitments from The United States, China and India.

Refining the complex text of a draft treaty will be the primary focus during the first week of the conference, but major decisions will await the arrival next week of environment ministers and the heads of state in the final days of the conference before Dec. 18.

World leaders will have to make decisions over a proposed fund of $10 billion each year for the next three years to help poor countries create climate change strategies. Hundreds of billions of dollars will be needed every year after that to set the world on a new energy path and adapt to new climates.

Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen said the deal that they invite leaders to sign up for would be one that affects all aspects of society, just as the changing climate does.

"Negotiators cannot do this alone, nor can politicians. The ultimate responsibility rests with the citizens of the world, who will ultimately bear the fatal consequences if we fail to act," he said.

With around 15,000 delegates, journalists and observers attending the Copenhagen conference, the venue has been declared UN territory.

Denmark has deployed more than half of its police force to the capital and police warned they would act swiftly to quell any violent protests.


World leaders attending the climate conference have brought along with them well over 1,200 CO2 emitting limousines into the normally bike and pedestrian friendly Copenhagen.

Organizers say the eleven-day conference, including the participants' travel, will create a total of 41,000 tons of "carbon dioxide equivalent", equal to the amount produced over the same period by a city the size of Middlesbrough, England.

The Telegraph UK reported that the airport said it was expecting up to 140 extra private jets during the peak period alone, so far over its capacity that the planes will have to fly off to regional airports "“ or to Sweden "“ to park, returning to Copenhagen to pick up their VIP passengers.

Among all of the delegates' vehicles at the convention, the number of hybrids being used was only 5.


On the Net: