Copenhagen Conference to Tackle Global Warming

Two-week conference aims to achieve legally binding agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions and has been billed as last best chance to clinch a deal.

UN officials, climate experts, environmental activists, and more than 60 world leaders gather in Copenhagen for a two-week conference on climate change to begin December 7. Their aim is to achieve a legally binding agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions. But there are questions about how much can be achieved and how any agreement would be implemented.

The Copenhagen conference has been billed as the last best chance to clinch a deal, but doubts have been raised whether it can do that.
Environmental groups will press the case for urgent action, says Charlie Kronick, climate advisor at Greenpeace UK.

"We need to have a legally binding agreement to reduce carbon emission in developed countries as quickly as possible," he urged.  "And what we need along with that is a significant commitment for funding from the developed countries to the developing countries - to fund technology transfer, to fund forest protection and also to fund adaptation to climate change, that we're already committed to," he said.

The goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions blamed for heating up the atmosphere.  And, since industrialized nations were the greatest polluters for years, they, more than others, are under pressure to cut emissions.  

But, many say developing countries also need to do more. They in turn want financial help to make the transition.

Both need to work together, says Nick Nuttall, spokesman for the UN Environment Program.

"What we're looking for in Copenhagen is a global partnership between the North and the South, between the developed, industrialized nations and the rapidly developing ones with the other developing nations also a part of that cooperative partnership deal, which is the only way we're going to deal with this," he said.

Most scientists say human activity is behind global warming and that it's up to humans to make changes to stem the tide.

But, politics and economics get in the way, says Charlie Kronick of Greenpeace.

"Governments in general and politicians all over the world are looking at a price tag that's attached to their term of office," he said.  "They always forget, and it's rarely emphasized in public, that it's better to spend the money now than in the future. The worse the problem gets, the more it costs to adapt."

Copenhagen is supposed to come up with a successor to the 1997 Kyoto agreement that mandated cuts in emissions.  It expires in 2012.  Some say Kyoto was doomed from the start because the United States never signed on.

But, President Obama will come to Copenhagen. And the United States has put emission cut proposals on the table.  

The conference is the moment of truth, says Nick Nuttall of the UN.

"This is the point at which governments really have to decide if they're serious about climate and if so, what they're going to do about it," he said.

It now remains to be seen if politicians are listening.

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