Climate Summit Under Way in Copenhagen

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Dec. 7 (UPI) — Delegates from 192 countries have two weeks to broker a globe-saving treaty at a crucial climate conference that opened Monday in Copenhagen.

“Global warming knows no borders, it does not discriminate, it affects us all and we are here today because we are all committed to take action,” Denmark’s Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said Monday at the opening ceremony in Copenhagen.

From now until Dec. 18, delegates from all over the world will try to broker a deal that is intended to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which runs out in 2012. Officials hope that it will include binding carbon dioxide emissions reduction commitments from the world’s major emitters — including the United States, India and China — as well as dozens of billions of dollars in financial aid to poor nations ill-equipped to deal with a problem they did least to create.

Scientists have called for a deal that limits the temperature rise to no more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F), a cap they say is critical to avert catastrophic damage to life on Earth.

In the weeks before the summit, politicians had warned that a binding deal might not emerge from Copenhagen, but observers are becoming increasingly optimistic because of reduction pledges recently tabled by all the major emitters.

“Negotiators now have the clearest signal ever from world leaders to craft solid proposals to implement rapid action,” said Yvo de Boer, the top U.N. climate official. “Never in 17 years of climate negotiations have so many different nations made so many firm pledges together.”

The United States has proposed a 17 percent emissions cut below 2005 levels by 2020, and a 30 percent cut by 2030. China and India also came forward with reduction pledges. All major world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, have vowed to attend the summit.

“We have reached the deadline and there is no going back,” said Connie Hedegaard, the Danish minister presiding over the U.N. mandated meeting. “Copenhagen will be the city of the three C’s: Cooperation, Commitment and Consensus. Now is the time to capture the moment and conclude a truly ambitious global deal. This is our chance. If we miss this opportunity, we will not get a better one.”

The only cloud hanging over Copenhagen is a scandal linked to a hack into a climate research institute in Norwich, England.

The hackers allegedly stole e-mails indicating that the scientists might have manipulated data to downplay evidence against global warming. However, leading scientists and politicians vowed that the science showing that man-made global warming is happening — and that it’s happening faster than anticipated — is rock-solid.

That doesn’t mean the allegations of data manipulation will be swept under the carpet.

“We will certainly go into the whole lot and then we will take a position on it,” the head of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Rajendra Pachauri, told the BBC. “This is a serious issue and we will look into it in detail.”

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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