Page last updated at 19:20 GMT, Monday, 7 December 2009

Copenhagen summit urged to take climate change action


The summit began with a filmed plea from children, and a welcome from Denmark's PM

Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen has described the UN climate summit in Copenhagen as an "opportunity the world cannot afford to miss".

Opening the two-week conference in the Danish capital, he told delegates from 192 countries a "strong and ambitious climate change agreement" was needed.

About 100 leaders are to attend the meeting, which aims to strike a deal on major cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

The UN says an unprecedented number of countries have promised emissions cuts.

Richard Black
Richard Black, BBC environment correspondent

Despite some seductive mood music this morning, sombre notes were also sounded in the opening bars of this two-week conference.

The first formal sign of a discord between various parties surfaced in the opening session. The head of the Grenadan delegation said the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) would "consider their options" if a legally-binding deal did not materialise here.

It appears that this bloc of 43 countries may simply not sign a deal that they believe votes their nations out of existence.

Some people here raise the point that small countries can be easily "bought off" by aid money or trade, or bullied into conformity, by their larger brethren.

Surely history indicates that is true; but if you perceive that the end of your nation is in sight as sea levels rise, perhaps that changes the usual terms of business.

But on the first day of the summit, divisions were evident between various blocs, with small island states indicating they would not accept anything less than a legally binding deal including deep cuts in emissions.

In July, the G8 bloc of industrialised countries and some major developing countries adopted a target of keeping the global average temperature rise since pre-industrial times to 2C.

However, small island states think this would cause serious climate impacts from rising sea levels, and have been arguing for a lower target of 1.5C. A number of African nations also back the lower target.

BBC environment correspondent Richard Black say it is possible that the G77/China bloc will endorse the lower target.

He says this would raise a huge obstacle, because none of the industrialised countries have put forward emission cuts in the range that would be required to meet a 1.5C target.

The African Union has threatened to walk out of the talks if industrialised countries do not agree to help poor states pay for the transition to cleaner economies.

The main areas for discussion at Copenhagen include:

  • Targets to curb greenhouse gas emissions, in particular by developed countries
  • Financial support for mitigation of and adaptation to climate change by developing countries
  • A carbon trading scheme aimed at ending the destruction of the world's forests by 2030.

Any agreement made at Copenhagen is intended to supplant the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on climate change, which expires in 2012.

World leaders who have pledged to attend include US President Barack Obama, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

'Immediate action'

In his opening remarks, the Danish prime minister told delegates that the world was looking to the conference to safeguard humanity.


  • No reference to legally binding agreement
  • Recognises the need to limit global temperatures rising no more than 2C above pre-industrial levels
  • Developed countries to "set a goal of mobilising jointly $100bn a year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries"
  • On transparency: Emerging nations monitor own efforts and report to UN every two years. Some international checks
  • No detailed framework on carbon markets - "various approaches" will be pursued
Updated: 13:47 GMT, 19 December

"By the end, we must be able to deliver back to the world what was granted us here today: hope for a better future," Mr Rasmussen said.

UN climate convention head Yvo de Boer said the time had come to deliver cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

"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."

Connie Hedegaard, conference president and Denmark's former climate minister, said: "This is our chance. If we miss it, it could take years before we got a new and better one. If we ever do."


On the same day that the Copenhagen summit opened, a US government agency declared that greenhouse gases posed a risk to human health.

The ruling by the Environmental Protection Agency on the dangers of greenhouse gases allows it to issue rules to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, even if the US Congress fails to pass suitable legislation.

Climate legislation passed narrowly in the House of Representatives in June, but the bill has been delayed in the Senate.

Meanwhile, a new poll commissioned by the BBC suggests that public concern over climate change is growing across the world.

In the survey, by Globescan, 64% of people questioned said that they considered global warming a very serious problem - up 20% from a 1998 poll.

To stress the importance of the summit, 56 newspapers in 45 countries published the same editorial on Monday, warning that climate change will "ravage our planet" unless action is agreed, the London-based Guardian reported.

The editorial - published in 20 languages - was thrashed out by editors ahead of the Copenhagen talks, the newspaper said.

"At the deal's heart must be a settlement between the rich world and the developing world," the editorial says.

Environmental activists are planning to hold protests in Copenhagen and around the world on 12 December to encourage delegates to reach the strongest possible deal.

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