Despite the harsh winter cold sweeping across Copenhagen, Denmark, optimism is high that an ambitious climate change deal will be achieved at the end of the two week summit.
The historic conference kicked off on Monday, with key leaders, led by Danish Prime Minister Mr Lars lokke Rasmussen and top UN climate official Mr Vyo de Boer asking for quick action to halt global warming.
“Global warming knows no borders…it does not discriminate. It affects us all,” said the Prime Minister, while officially opening the meeting at the Bella Centre that is being attended by at least 15,000 participants from 192 countries.
“It is our mission to come to the aid of those, already suffering and deliver a long term solution to the mounting problem of global warming. This is our task.... that is why we need a strong, ambitious climate change deal here in Copenhagen.”
It is a view that was also shared by Mr de Boer, the UN climate convention head, who said; “The time has come to reach out to each other and deliver…the time to issue statements is now over.”
He added, “Never in the 17 years of climate change negotiations have so many different countries made so many pledges (to cut emissions). The time to act is now in order to ensure that people don’t suffer in the future.”
The summit that is also expected to be attended by more than 110 heads of state and government, including US President Barack Obama, is expected to supplant the 1997 the Kyoto protocol, which expires in 2012.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga is expected to lead the Kenyan delegation.
The protocol, which came into force in 2005 and ratified by 148 parties, places a heavy burden on industrialized countries. It sets targets for reducing emissions of greenhouse gasses, now accepted as the main cause of global warming.
The warming is already leading to potentially dangerous occurrences, including melting of glaciers and ice caps like in Mt Kenya and Kilimanjaro, rising of sea levels, and drying up of land masses.
Africa, to be represented by Ethiopian President Meles Zenawi, has already drawn up a common position, which was consolidated at the continent’s Environment ministerial conference held recently in Addis Ababa, in collaboration with the African Union, the UN Economic Commission for Africa and the Un Environmental Program.
Key conclusions were that the continent will not accept a new pact to create Kyoto protocol and that Africa requires a new, up-scaled finance, technology and capacity for adaptation and risk management.
On Monday at the conference, the Danish PM said the deal could be hammered out – only if differences – amongst negotiators – will be resolved and if political will was present.
He sad that the presence of the 110 heads of state and government at the concluding days of the conference reflected an ‘unprecedented mobilisation of political determination to combat
“It represents a huge opportunity. An opportunity the world cannot afford to miss,” he said.
‘Your leaders will not come here just to talk. They will come to act. And they come not to agree to just anything – but to agree to an effective deal that affects the society, just as the changing climate does,” he explained.
‘Let us not focus on issues that divides us, but issues that brings us together,” he went on.
Mr de Boer spoke of three layers of action that governments must agree to in the course of the coming two weeks: fast and effective implementation of immediate action on climate change; ambitious commitments to cut and limit emissions, including start-up funding and a long-term funding commitment; and a long-term shared vision on a low-emissions future for all.
And speaking at a news conference on Sunday evening, the UN official said developed countries will need to provide fast-track funding on the order of at least 10 billion US dollars a year through 2012 to enable developing countries to immediately plan and launch low emission growth and adaptation strategies.
Mr Rajendra Pachauri, the Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) there was already proof that climate change was ravaging parts of the world as was predicted in their fourth assessment report.
“Society must now respond to climate change by adapting to its impacts and reducing green house gas emissions,” he said.
He added; “The developed countries must take the lead in combating climate change and the adverse affects thereof.”
He went on, “The evidence is now overwhelming that the world would benefit greatly from an early action and that any delays would only lead to costs in economic and human terms that would become progressively high.”
According to the IPCC an aggregate emission reduction by industrialised countries of between minus 25 percent and 40 percent over 1990 levels would be required by 2020 in order to stave off the worst effects of climate change, with global emissions falling by at least 50 percent by 2050.
Even under this scenario, there would be an only a 50 per cent chance of avoiding the most catastrophic consequences.