Copenhagen climate conference opens

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Logo for COP15, the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference.

The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) has opened on Monday with calls for urgent action to curb climate change and global warming. The largest climate conference in history at the Bella Center in Copenhagen, Denmark is running for two-weeks from December 7 until December 18. Around 15,000 delegates including representatives from the private sector, environmental organizations, research institutions and government officials, as well as 110 heads of state and government from 192 countries, will attend.

A deal is within our reach.

—- Danish Prime Minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen.

The COP15 Cultural Opening Ceremony played a four-minute long film called Please help the world by the Danish director Mikkel Blaabjerg Poulsen to highlight the danger of rising temperatures. The film depicts a young girl’s screaming nightmare about an eco-apocalypse with global warming, desert wastelands and terrifying floods. As the girl wakes from the nightmare she and other children implores us to 'Please help the world'. Poulsen said, “We have made a film which speaks to the heart rather than to the brain”. There was also music from a trumpeter, a harpist and the Danish National Girls Choir.

The UN climate change conference, the climax of two years of contentious negotiations, opened in an atmosphere of hope. There was an upbeat mood for a deal to be reached within the next two weeks. At a press briefing, Connie Hedegaard, the president of the conference, said that “the deadline is working”, but “within the time we have, we must solve the task”. Lars Lokke Rasmussen stressed, however, that the talks will have to overcome the deep distrust between rich and poor nations on how to share the burden of curbing emissions. There has been a series of promises by rich and emerging economies to curb their greenhouse gases, but there are major issues yet to be resolved. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that a legally binding treaty on climate change will be reached in 2010.

Please help the world, please help save the World.

—Children from Please help the world.

The European Union has adopted a commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020 compared to 1990 levels but the union will raise its commitments to 30% if other major players undertake “comparable commitments”. News that the United States Environmental Protection Agency ruled that greenhouse gases endanger human health may allow reductions of U.S greenhouse gas emissions. Quoting an unnamed diplomatic source, the Financial Times Deutschland has said the EU is to provide “1-3 billion euro” in aid to developing countries over the next three years so they can fight the effects of climate change and allow climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Will a legally binding international treaty to cut CO2 emissions be agreed by COP15?

The conference was accused of environmental hypocrisy for its substantial carbon footprint, including its extensive use of private jets and limousines. To reduce the conference's environmental and climate impact, the Danish government will not give gifts to participants. The money will be spent on climate scholarships called COP15 Climate Scholarships, allowing 10-12 candidates to carry out 2-year climate related master’s programmes at Danish universities. Thousands of people are outside the conference building including groups such as Climate Justice Action, Friends of the Earth, Camp for Climate Action, and Greenpeace calling for urgent action. The environmental group Friends of the Earth condemned what it called “undemocratic practices adopted by the Danish presidency of convening small and exclusive groups of countries before the Copenhagen meeting”. A draft negotiating text has been publicly released, but it is rumored that there is an “alternate” treaty document being developed by some large countries in the negotiations, including conference organizers.

According to the Bali Road Map, the 15th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP15) and the 5th Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (COP/MOP5) must agree to a framework for climate change mitigation beyond 2012. Heads of states and governments of 110 countries have announced that they will come to Copenhagen before the 18th of December in an attempt to seal a political global climate deal. If a deal is reached, the UN will aim at transforming it into a legally binding text to replace the Kyoto Protocol, as its regulations of emissions expire in 2012.