Biggest climate show on earth to open in Copenhagen


Copenhagen: The Organisers of the Copenhagen summit have urged world leaders to get serious about climate change Sunday as thousands of officials from more than 190 nations headed here for 12 days of negotiations aimed at stopping global warming.

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“Time is up,” Ivo de Boer, the UN’s chief negotiator, said as he urged leaders to deliver “ambitious” greenhouse gas cuts over the next two weeks.

The long-awaited UN Climate Change Conference is to officially start Monday with an opening ceremony to be attended by Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen.

Some 15,000 people, including 103 government leaders and thousands of negotiators, pressure groups and journalists are expected to attend what officials describe as “the biggest show on earth”.

The conference takes place at the Bella Centre, a sprawling 123,000 sq metre venue close to the Danish capital’s Kastrup Airport.

However, such is the interest generated by the event that as many as 34,000 people have applied for accreditation – double the venue’s maximum capacity – organisers said Sunday.

The so-called COP15 (Conference of the Parties) conference received a major boost this week with the announcement that US President Barack Obama would attend its last crucial day, Dec 18.

Obama had originally planned to attend the conference Dec 9, the day before he is due to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo.

The conference’s opening was preceded by protests around Europe from environmentalists and an appeal from Pope Benedict XVII in Rome, who called for “sober and responsible lifestyles” as a means of protecting God’s creation.

“We must have a deal,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told Danish broadcaster DR in New York. “The momentum has been created in such a way that now all the leaders are coming to Copenhagen for a very strong political commitment and deal,” he said.

The overarching objective of the conference is to stop average global temperatures from rising by more than 2 degrees Celsius above their pre-industrial levels.

Scientists say that a greater rise would likely have devastating impacts, particularly on the world’s poorer nations, disrupting water supplies, submerging island states and spreading droughts and diseases.

Global temperatures have already risen by an average of 0.74 degrees over the last 100 years, and are projected to rise by at least 3 degrees this century unless urgent action is taken.

De Boer says stopping global warming will require the industrialised world reducing its emissions of greenhouse gases by between 25 and 40 percent against their 1990 levels over the next decade or so. Global emissions should also fall by at least 50 percent by 2050.

The EU has already vowed to cut its own emissions by at least 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. But the world’s biggest polluters – the US and China – have so far come up with far less ambitious targets.

Organisers remain optimistic, however.

“Never in 17 years of climate negotiations have so many different nations made so many firm pledges together,” de Boer said. “So whilst there will be more steps on the road to a safe climate future, Copenhagen is already a turning point in the international response to climate change,” he said.

Aside from reaching an agreement on emission cuts, the other biggest obstacle to a deal is money – lots of it.

De Boer says the world’s richest nations will have to provide the developing world with fast-track funding worth $10 billion a year through 2012. This will enable poorer countries to “immediately plan and launch low emission growth and adaptation strategies and to build internal capacity”.

Long-term funding requirements are estimated at $200 billion for mitigation (limiting global warming) and $100 billion for adapting to climate change.

Who should manage such jaw-dropping amounts of money is another major bone of contention.

Negotiators are also divided over whether to amend the existing Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions, which was agreed in 1997, or come up with a new arrangement.

“Copenhagen is where world leaders must honour their promise to avert catastrophic climate change,” said Kumi Naidoo of Greenpeace International, a pressure group.

“All the pieces of the jigsaw are there: a gathering of more than 100 heads of state; the key elements of the legal text; more than 20,000 delegates – and a world calling for action. At this point, political will is the only thing that’s missing,” Naidoo said.