UN climate change summit opens in Copenhagen


Copenhagen: Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen urged negotiators from nearly 200 countries to forge a “strong and ambitious” deal as a mammoth UN summit on climate change opened in Copenhagen Monday.

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“Differences can be overcome, if the political will is present. And I believe it is,” Rasmussen said at an opening ceremony in the Danish capital.

A total of 110 world leaders, among them US President Barack Obama, are now expected to attend the final stages of the 12-day UN Climate Change Conference.

The overarching aim of the talks is to stop global warming from unleashing potentially devastating consequences on the planet’s future generations.

This is to be achieved through massive cuts in the emission of dangerous greenhouse gases by industrial nations in the range of 25 to 40 percent against 1990-levels over the next decade or so.

Rich nations are also being asked to provide billions of dollars in aid to help the world’s poorest deal with climate change and facilitate their transition to low-carbon prosperity.

Despite a year of pre-summit negotiations, Rasmussen acknowledged Monday that deep divisions remain among nations over the exact content of an agreement.

But the prospects of a deal have been boosted in recent weeks by a series of pledges made by the world’s biggest polluters, among them the US and China.

According to a new study by climate change guru Nicholas Stern and the UN Environment Programme, countries meeting in Copenhagen may actually be “closer than some observers realise to agreeing the emissions cuts required to give the world a reasonable chance of avoiding global warming” of more than 2 degrees Centigrade.

Specifically, the study found that the gap between countries’ strongest proposed cuts and what is needed “may be only a few billion tonnes of greenhouse gases”.

The Copenhagen conference opened with a video portraying a nightmare scenario of storms and draughts if no action is taken, and a series of speeches from the conference’s hosts, urging leaders not to waste this opportunity.

The opening ceremony was preceded by a joint leader article, published by 56 newspapers in 45 countries, calling on world leaders to place “decisive action” ahead of mutual recrimination.

Without action, “climate change will ravage our planet, and, with it, our prosperity and security,” the article said, citing record warm years, the melting Arctic ice cap “and last year’s inflamed oil and food prices”.

The article was drafted by a team from London’s The Guardian newspaper during more than a month of consultations with editors from more than 20 of the papers involved. It was carried by leading English, Chinese, Arabic, French and Russian newspapers – including Le Monde in France, the Toronto Star, the Botswana Guardian and The Miami Herald.