After hacked e-mails, angry Copenhagen sex workers, and months of lead-up time with which to question whether the leaders of the world will actually do anything to slow down global warming, the big meeting is finally here. Today marks day one of the U.N. climate summit held in Denmark’s capital, in which diplomats from 192 nations, including more than 100 heads of state, will try to iron out some kind of agreement that would be the successor to the Kyoto protocols.
The conference opened with videos about the consequences of climate change; the big decisions won’t come for a few days. 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…. The first week of the conference will focus on refining the complex text of a draft treaty. But major decisions will await the arrival next week of environment ministers and the heads of state in the final days of the conference, which ends Dec. 18 [AP].
In response to slow-moving governments and anthropogenic global warming skeptics howling with increased volume in the wake of the East Anglia hacked e-mail controversy, Copenhagen organizers emphasize that there’s no more time to lose in addressing climate change. However, the provisions in the draft agreement don’t have a lot of teeth. To have a chance of keeping warming under the dangerous 2C mark, cuts of 25%-40% relative to 1990 levels are needed, rising to 80%-95% by 2050. So far, the offers on the table are way below these targets [The Guardian].
While the G8 countries are looking at keeping warming under 2 Celsius, BBC News reports, China and developing countries are discussing more ambitious cuts to keep warming below 1.5 Celsius. And besides agreeing on a target for emissions reduction, a Copenhagen agreement would also have to sort which countries should make the most cuts, and how much wealthier nations should have to pay to help developing countries curb their emissions.
Despite all that diplomats must work out in less than two weeks, though, convention leader Yvo de Boer laid down the gauntlet for his meeting. “The time for formal statements is over. The time for re-stating well-known positions is past,” he told delegates. “Copenhagen will only be a success if it delivers significant and immediate action” [BBC News].
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Image: flickr / adopt a negotiator