Historic Climate Talks Open With A Stark Warning

Copenhagen. The most important UN climate-change conference in history opened on Monday, with diplomats from 192 nations warning that this could be the best and last chance to protect the world from the calamitous effects of global warming. The two-week conference, the climax of two years of contentious negotiations, convened in an upbeat mood after a series of promises by rich and emerging economies to curb emissions of greenhouse gases. But major issues were yet to be resolved. Conference president Connie Hedegaard said the key to an agreement was finding a way to raise and channel public and private financing to poor nations for years to come to help them fight the effects of climate change. Hedegaard, Denmark’s former climate minister, said that if governments missed their chance at Copenhagen, a better opportunity may never come. “This is our chance. If we miss it, it could take years before we get a new and better one — if we ever do,’’ she said. The conference’s first week will focus on refining the complex text of a draft treaty. Denmark’s prime minister said 110 heads of state and government will attend the summit’s final days next week. President Barack Obama’s decision to attend at the end of the conference, instead of during the middle, was taken as a signal that an agreement was nearer. The conference opened with video clips of children from around the globe urging delegates to help them grow up in a world without catastrophic warming. On the sidelines, climate activists competed to attract attention for their campaigns. At stake is a deal that aims to wean the world away from fossil fuels and other pollutants to greener sources of energy, and to transfer hundreds of billions of dollars from rich to poor countries every year over decades to help them adapt to climate change. Scientists say without such an agreement, the Earth will face ever-rising temperatures, leading to the extinction of plant and animal species, the flooding of coastal cities, more-extreme weather and the spread of diseases. “The evidence is now overwhelming’’ that the world needs early action to combat global warming, said Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Signs of a breakthrough in negotiations emerged only recently, with commitments from the United States, China and India to control emissions. I n Jakarta, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Monday stressed the urgency of forming a new pact. “We wish to open a new historic page in Copenhagen with an agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol,” he said. Without it, he said, sea levels could rise by 1.5 meters by 2100 and dry or rainy seasons could be prolonged. “It would be better if we have a plan of action to reduce carbon emissions by up to 26 percent through reforestation, the control of fuel oil and transportation,” he said, adding that he was optimistic a firm agreement would be reached.

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