China has opened a UN conference on climate change aimed at preventing a repeat of what happened at a climate change meeting last year.
Last year’s UN climate summit in Copenhagen failed to produce a legally binding treaty on curbing the greenhouse gases that cause global warming. That left environmentalists and political leaders deeply disappointed.
So the six-day Chinese meeting in the northern port city of Tianjin, just outside of Beijing, is aimed at narrowing differences before the next major year-end meeting in Mexico. To many, that meant setting less ambitious goals.
In her opening speech on Monday, UN climate chief Christiana Figueres minced no words about what needs to be done telling delegates that they, as government representatives, could continue the standstill or "you can move forward. Now is the time to make that choice."
Last year's summit in Copenhagen lead to no more than a non-binding political declaration on fighting climate change.
The focus of disagreement then was between developed and developing countries over how to cut their greenhouse gas emissions.
China’s State Councilor at the meeting, Dai Bingguo, addressed that, saying
"We must continue with the goals of 'common but differentiated responsibilities'. We need to confirm that developed nations will meet their emission reduction targets, and clearly give developing nations financing, technological help and planning, and help developing nations to adapt to a new and low emission system."
UN Climate chief Figueres told the 3,000 attending the meeting that the ultimate objective of the talks, both in China and later in the year in Cancun Mexico, is to reach a climate agreement aimed at curbing the greenhouse gases which she said were already triggering extreme conditions in the world climate.
The UN talks are meant to produce a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol, which expire in 2012. The only country not to have ratified the Kyoto Protocol was the United States.
China and the United States are the world's leading carbon emitters, accounting for 40 percent of the world's total emission of greenhouse gases, which have been blamed for global warming.