The U.N. Climate Change conference opened in Copenhagen, Denmark Monday with some 15,000 delegates and observers from nearly 200 countries attending what is being billed the last best chance for an agreement to combat global warming.
"A warm welcome to Copenhagen and to the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009"
The opening words to delegates, experts and activists from around the world gathered here in Copenhagen for the next two weeks.
Their task is to find common ground, including on reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, promotion and transfer of new more eco-friendly technology and the necessary funding to make this possible, especially for the less developed and poorer nations. It also means coming up with long term vision and cooperation for the future.
The U.N.'s top climate official, Yvo de Boer issued a stark reminder that the clock has run out.
"The time for formal statements is over. The time for re-stating well known positions is past," said Yvo de Boer. "The time has come to reach out to each other. I urge you to build on your achievements, take up the work that has already been done and turn it into action."
Many countries have put proposals to reduce emissions on the table, including the United States, China and South Africa.
There have been strong statements from world leaders on the need to forge agreement, even though differences on timing, approach, burden sharing and funding remain.
The Copenhagen conference was to come up with a binding agreement to succeed the 1997 Kyoto Protocol which mandated emissions cuts, but was not signed by some of the world's biggest polluters, including the United States. Kyoto expires in 2012. But many say a political framework is more likely at Copenhagen, with a binding accord to be worked out possibly next year.
Denmark's Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen reminded delegates the time to act is now and for everyone.
"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," he said.
The prime minister said he believes a deal is possible. Delegates have just over a week to prove him right - before more than 100 heads of state and government come here. Conference organizers hope they'll have a deal on the table for signing.